Last updated on: 11/13/2023 | 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)


Chris Christie:

“I’ve always believed that the death penalty is appropriate, and the reason it’s appropriate is because it’s an act of self-defense.”

Editors’ Note: The death penalty was abolished in New Jersey in 2007 by Christie’s predecessor, Governor John Corzine.


New York Times, “Chris Christie on the Death Penalty,”, Sep. 25, 2015


Ron DeSantis:

“Today [May 1, 2023], Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law his third consecutive anti-crime, pro-public safety legislative package. The bills enacted by the Governor strengthen pre-trial detention and push back against ‘“’bail reform’”’ efforts that have made other states significantly less safe, increase sentences for drug traffickers that target children, and subject child rapists to the death penalty [HB 1297]. Last month, Governor DeSantis also signed legislation that reforms Florida’s death penalty statutes to ensure justice in capital cases [SB 450].”

Editors’ Note: SB 450 eliminates the unanimous jury requirement for death penalty cases and requires only 8 of 12 jurors recommend capital punishment for the penalty to be imposed, which allows for the death penalty in more cases. Seven men have been executed in Florida during DeSantis’s tenure as governor as of Sep. 18, 2023.


Ron DeSantis, “Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Third Consecutive Anti-Crime, Pro-Public Safety Legislative Package,”, May 1, 2023
Source for Editors’ Note: Death Penalty Information Center, “Execution Database,” (accessed Sep. 18, 2023)


Nikki Haley

“We absolutely will want him [Dylann Roof] to have the death penalty. This is the worst hate that I’ve seen and that the country has seen in a long time.”

Editors’ Note: Haley is referring to the June 17, 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (known as “Mother Emanuel”) in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine Black church members were killed and another injured.


Mark Berman, “S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley: Charleston Gunman Should Face the Death Penalty,”, June 19, 2015


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)


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. Some consider the administration’s lack of abolishment a pro opinion on the death penalty, while others believe Biden is con the death penalty and abolishment at the federal level would be difficult.


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
Michael Tarm and Alanna Durkin Richer, “Biden’s Justice Dept. Keeps Hard Line in Death Row Cases,”, Mar. 26, 2023

Not Clear or Not Found

Doug Burgum:

No position as of Aug. 31, 2023.

Editors’ Note: Capital punishment was abolished in North Dakota in 1915 for all crimes excluding treason and murder committed by already jailed inmates. In 1973 the legislature voted to make no crimes eligible for the death penalty, thus Governor Burgum has no legislative record on the issue.


Source for Editors’ Note:, “States with the Death Penalty, Death Penalty Bans, and Death Penalty Moratoriums,”, Mar. 24, 2023

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.:

No position as of Aug. 31, 2023.

Vivek Ramaswamy:

No position as of Aug. 31, 2023.