by Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez
On Thursday, December 14th, the Death Penalty Information Center released their annual end of year report analyzing the trends and patterns we’ve seen with the death penalty in 2017. According to the report, death sentences and executions were the second lowest in a quarter century. Additionally, public support for the death penalty fell to its lowest level in 45 years.
These major points speak for themselves and make it clear that the death penalty is falling out of favor. While Florida did account for a quarter of the nations’ executions, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hurst v. Florida ended the state’s outlier practice of non-unanimous jury law. This reform mandates unanimous-jury decisions in capital punishment cases and has the potential to end Florida’s disproportionate rates of death sentencing. Florida’s unjust jury practice has come to the end, and it seems the end of capital punishment is not far behind.
Historic low levels of public support, including a ten percent drop for those who identified as Republican, further highlights the looming end of the death penalty. This year has left no doubt.
Clearly, those who we are executing are not “the worst of the worst” but are some of society’s most marginalized Jesus invites us to care for. The Catholic Church has long been against the death penalty, and as Pope Francis reminded us in October, our use of the death penalty “heavily wounds human dignity.”
As my brother bishop, Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, stated on Good Friday, the death penalty has no place in a country that has other means of bringing justice. Catholic Mobilizing Network, the national organization working to lift up this need for mercy and justice, invites all people of faith and goodwill to educate, advocate, and pray to end the death penalty by signing The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty. I encourage you to join us in this work of life and end the death penalty.