William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal


In his Article, Professor Michael L. Radelet describes a global decline in the use of the death penalty, the United Nation's progressively stronger stance against executions, and a growing opposition to capital punishment in the United States. This decrease is attributed to both empirical studies casting doubt on the death penalty's efficacy in promoting its stated underlying goals, and to the increasingly vocal stance of religious leaders morally opposed to capital punishment. Nevertheless, the decline in other justifications for capital punishment has been met with increasing reliance on retribution as the primary argument in its support. Professor Radelet argues that retribution's moral, rather than empirical, base makes it an issue largely within the purview of religious denominations, the traditional source of a community's moral authority. Professor Radelet predicts that religious leaders' increasing opposition to the flawed administration of the death penalty, rather than their lesser support for the abstract concept of capital punishment, will tip the balance toward its abolition in America.