Hugo Bedau

Recent Articles

Death's Dwindling Dominion

As we enter the 21st century, Americans have never been more divided over the proper role of the death penalty. Some of us (still a minority) would like to see it entirely abolished -- and we have achieved this goal in a dozen states, beginning with Michigan in 1847 and most recently in Vermont in 1987. At the other extreme, a smaller minority wants an expanded death penalty -- a goal unlikely to be achieved given recent DNA findings, court rulings, and shifts in public opinion. A plurality of the public at present believes there is a proper, albeit rather narrow, role for capital punishment, confined to the most egregious crimes, notably first-degree murder with multiple victims, serial killings, terrorism, or murder committed by a recidivist. Such support weakens still further when respondents are offered the alternative sentence of life without parole. In the face of these facts, America's seeming infatuation with the death penalty looks about an inch deep and a good deal less than...