The Pew Research Center has just released its latest study, and it’s making the media rounds today.  Seems their study finds that a solid majority of Americans – sixty-two percent (62%) — are in favor of the death penalty. 

Read the Pew report online here, entitled "Continued Support for the Death Penalty."

Which makes it interesting to consider the opinion voiced by New York Law Professor Cohen over at TIME Magazine this week, where Professor Cohen argues that there is a growing "de facto" abolishing of capital punishment in this country.  In his article, "Why the Death Penalty is Slowly Dying," Cohen opines that this is due to three reasons:

  • the increase in Death Row exonerations;
  • the cost to take a case from trial to execution – capital cases are expensive; and
  • what he calls the "ick factor," where he posits that citizens are more squeamish about executions than they were historically.

Is Cohen Right?

Out of the three reasons listed above, money sure does seem like a motivating factor in states that are broke, like California (as we have posted about before).  However, there’s a big, big factor in the absence of executions to tally in 2011:  lack of supply for one of the needed drugs in the three-drug lethal injection cocktail that had been pretty much accepted procedure in all U.S. Death Chambers.

In the past year, the inability to buy domestic sodium thiopental has sent execution schedules into chaos – as we’ve been following along in our posts.

One has to ask:  if states had not lost their steady supply of sodium thiopental, would the execution numbers have gone down?