Last updated on: 3/6/2024 | Author:

Should the Death Penalty Be Legal?

Since 1977, one year after the US Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the death penalty, more than 1,480 people have been executed, primarily by means of lethal injection. Most death penalty cases involve the execution of murderers although capital punishment can also be applied for treason, espionage, and other crimes. The death penalty is legal at the federal level and in 27 American states (three of those states have moratoriums on its use) and is banned in 22 states and Washington, D.C. For more on the death penalty, explore the ProCon debate.

PRO (yes)


Donald Trump:

“Today, I am also directing the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the DEATH PENALTY – and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay.”

Editors’ Note: Under the Trump administration, the federal government resumed the death penalty after over twenty years. During Trump’s presidency, 13 federal inmates were executed between July 14, 2020 and Jan. 16, 2021.


Donald Trump,, Aug. 5, 2019
Source for Editors’ Note:, “Jan. 16, 2021 – US Federal Government Executed 13 Inmates under Trump Administration,”, Aug. 16, 2023

CON (no)

Not Clear or Not Found

Joe Biden:

“We need to confront racial and income-based disparities in our justice system and eliminate overly harsh sentencing for non-violent crimes. As president, Biden will… Eliminate the death penalty. Over 160 individuals who’ve been sentenced to death in this country since 1973 have later been exonerated. Because we cannot ensure we get death penalty cases right every time, Biden will work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example. These individuals should instead serve life sentences without probation or parole.”

Editors’ Note: Biden previously expressed a pro opinion on the death penalty. Further, under the Biden administration, no action has been taken to abolish the death penalty and both Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Dylann Roof, among others, have had resentencing requests denied, leaving both men on federal death row. However, no federal executions have taken place during the Biden administration. Additionally, the Biden administration’s Justice Department announced it would seek the death penalty for Payton Gendron, who killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store in May 2022.


Joe Biden, “Justice,” (accessed Aug. 26, 2019)
Sources for Editors’ Note: Frank R. Baumgartner, “If Biden Abolishes the Federal Death Penalty, He’ll Have More Support Than You Think,”, Aug. 3, 2021
David Nakamura and Mark Berman, “Justice Dept. To Seek Death Penalty for Buffalo Mass Killer,”, Jan. 12, 2024
Michael Tarm and Alanna Durkin Richer, “Biden’s Justice Dept. Keeps Hard Line in Death Row Cases,”, Mar. 26, 2023

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.:

No position as of Aug. 31, 2023.