Candidates' positions are categorized as Pro (Yes), Con (No), Not Clearly Pro or Con, or None Found. Candidates who have changed their positions are listed as Now their most recent position. Candidates are listed by party and in alphabetical order by last name. Black & white photos indicate candidates who have withdrawn or who no longer meet our criteria for inclusion.
Should the death penalty remain a legal option in America?
Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico, stated the following in an Aug. 21, 2011 publication "Interview with Gary Johnson," available at www.scottholleran.com:
"As governor of New Mexico, I was a bit naïve and I did not think the government made mistakes with regard to the death penalty. I came to realize that they do. I don't want to put one innocent person to death to punish 99 who are guilty.”' Aug. 21, 2011 Gary Johnson
[Editor’s Note: Gov. Johnson reportedly first publicly announced his opposition to the death penalty at a Jan. 16, 2002 news conference following his State of the State speech to the Legislature where he said in part: “I have to come to believe that the death penalty as a public policy is flawed… I believe that this country has put innocent people to death and that in the future this country will put innocent people to death.”]
[Editor's Note: Prior to Gary Johnson's Con statement made on Aug. 21, 2011, he expressed a Pro position as indicated below on Aug. 28, 2001.]
"I have no plans to render a stay on his execution. Terry Clark committed the crimes that he has been convicted of. I happen to think that's just punishment for him…I happen to support the death penalty for individuals who commit these types of crimes." Aug. 28, 2001 Gary Johnson
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, stated the following in his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream:
"While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes- mass murder, the rape and murder of a child- so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment." 2006 Barack Obama
Jill Stein, MD, former Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, stated the following in a Project Vote Smart "Political Courage Test," available at www.votesmart.org (accessed July 13, 2012):
"America's experience shows that capital punishment does not effectively stop crimes from being committed. And our judicial system makes mistakes, killing people who are innocent. It's time to move beyond capital punishment, to abolish it, and to instead use life imprisonment as the most severe form of sentencing for those who cannot be trusted to live in common society." July 13, 2012 Jill Stein
Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives (R-GA), made the following statements in his Nov. 28, 2011 interview with Chris Moody, “Newt Gingrich on Drug Laws, Entitlements, and Campaigning: The Yahoo News Interview,” available at www.yahoo.com:
Chris Moody: “In 1996, you introduced a bill that would have given the death penalty to drug smugglers. Do you still stand by that?”
Newt Gingrich: “I think if you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure. Look at the level of violence they've done to society. You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say there's nothing wrong with heroin and cocaine or you can be in the tradition that says, 'These kind of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of full citizenship and they lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to being an American.' If you're serious about the latter view, then we need to think through a strategy that makes it radically less likely that we're going to have drugs in this country." Nov. 28, 2011 Newt Gingrich
[Editor’s Note: On Sep. 25, 1996 Gingrich introduced HR 4170: Drug Importer Death Penalty Act of 1996 (0.2 MB). According to the Congressional Research Service, the bill that Gingrich sponsored would “direct the court to sentence a person convicted of bringing into the United States a proscribed quantity of a mixture or substance containing a controlled substance in an amount the Attorney General has determined is equal to 100 usual dosage amounts to life imprisonment without possibility of release (or, if the defendant has violated such provision on more than one occasion and if certain requirements under the Federal criminal code are met, to death).” The bill died in the Subcommittee on Health and Environment.]
Ron Paul, US Representative (R-TX) stated the following in an Aug. 21, 2011 article "The Death Penalty? 'I Think It's Uncivilized,'" available at www.concordmonitor.com:
"It's been a while since I've had a major change of opinion, but I try to understand and study and figure out how things work and become better. But on that issue (the death penalty), I did have a change of opinion... It was not overnight, but my position now is, since I'm a federal official and I would be a U.S. president, is I do not believe in the federal death penalty... but I would not come and say the federal government and the federal courts should tell the states they can't have the death penalty anymore...
I read an article yesterday, and 68 percent of the time they make mistakes.
It's so racist, too. I think more than half the people getting the death penalty are poor blacks.
This is the one place, the one remnant of racism in our country is in the court system, enforcing the drug laws and enforcing the death penalty... If you're rich, you usually don't meet the death penalty...
I don't think it's very good sign for civilization to still be invoking the death penalty." Aug. 21, 2011 Ron Paul
[Editor's Note: Prior to Ron Paul's Not Clearly Pro or Con statement from Aug. 21, 2001, he expressed a Pro position as indicated by the statement from Aug. 25, 2007 below.]
"Well, all states have the right to impose capital punishment. But I have become so skeptical of the federal government that under our system... the federal government has made so many mistakes and with DNA evidence now revealing so many errors that I don't even like the idea of our federal government pretending that they know whose life they are going to take because of their total ineptness in just about everything they do. As far as the state goes, yes capital punishment is a deserving penalty for those who commit crime." Aug. 25, 2007 Ron Paul
Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, stated the following during the NBC News/Politico Republican presidential debate held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley on Sep. 7, 2011:
"[Brian] Williams: Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times... Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?
[Rick] Perry: No, sir. I've never struggled with that at all... But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed...
I think Americans understand justice. I think Americans are clearly, in the vast majority of -- of cases, supportive of capital punishment." Sep. 7, 2011 Rick Perry
Buddy Roemer, former Governor of Louisiana, was one of 33 cosponsors of the Feb. 3, 1982 bill H.R. 5448, A Bill to Establish Procedures for Imposition of the Death Penalty for Presidential Assassination, and for Other Purposes, available at thomas.loc.gov:
The Congressional Research Service summary of H.R. 5448, cosponsored by Buddy Roemer, states that the bill "Amends the Federal criminal code to establish procedures for the imposition of the death penalty for presidential assassination." Feb. 1982 Buddy Roemer
Rick Santorum, former US Senator (R-PA), stated the following in a Mar. 22, 2005 article, "Santorum Rethinks Death Penalty Stance," avialable at Post-Gazette.com:
"I felt very troubled about cases where someone may have been convicted wrongly. DNA evidence definitely should be used when possible…I agree with the pope that in the civilized world ... the application of the death penalty should be limited. I would definitely agree with that. I would certainly suggest there probably should be some further limits on what we use it for… I never thought about it that much when I was really a supporter of the death penalty. I still see it as potentially valuable, but I would be one to urge more caution than I would have in the past… I was moved by the call of Pope John Paul II to be unconditionally pro-life." Mar. 22, 2005 Rick Santorum