The nation is engaged in the most intensive discussion of the death penalty in decades. Temporary moratoria on executions are effectively in place in Illinois and Maryland, and during the winter 2001 legislative cycle legislation to adopt those pauses elsewhere cleared committees or one or more houses of the legislature, not only in Connecticut (passed the Senate Judiciary Committee) and Maryland (where it passed the entire House, and the Senate Judiciary Committee) but in Nevada (passed the Senate) and Texas (passed committees in both Houses). In the last year, abolition bills have passed or come within a few votes of passing in New Mexico and New Hampshire, although the Democratic governor vetoed the New Hampshire bill. Comprehensive studies of the death penalty have been legislated or ordered in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, and at the federal level, and are under consideration in a variety of other states.
Legislation to abolish, or at least to moderate, the use of the death penalty has been considered in the current legislative cycle in at least twenty-six of the nation's forty death sentencing states, and has passed at least a committee vote in twelve or more. As recently as two years ago, a similar count likely would have revealed less than a third as many proposals, and almost no instances of committee approval. A major death penalty reform bill is pending in Congress with bipartisan support and over two hundred cosponsors in the House.
James S. Liebman,
New Death Penalty Debate: What's DNA Got to Do with It,
Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev.
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