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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Debating The Death Penalty

The "death chamber" at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit in Huntsville, Texas, is pictured in February 2000. (Paul Buck/AFP/Getty Images)

The “death chamber” at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit in Huntsville, Texas, is pictured in February 2000. (Paul Buck/AFP/Getty Images)

On July 2, 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty. A year later, convicted murderer Gary Gilmore was executed by a firing squad in Utah. That same year, 1977, Oklahoma became the first state to approve lethal injection as a means of implementing the death penalty. It was in that state in April that an execution by lethal injection was botched.

There are some people who kill so viciously, with an attitude that is so callous, so cruel, so wanton, that they simply deserve to die.
– Robert Blecker

Today, we open a conversation about capital punishment with a supporter of the death penalty who believes it is the appropriate punishment for people convicted of heinous crimes, and it should be used even if there is a risk that someone who might actually be innocent is executed.

Robert Blecker, a professor of criminal law at New York Law School and the author of “The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice among the Worst of the Worst,” tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson “there are some people who kill so viciously, with an attitude that is so callous, so cruel, so wanton, that they simply deserve to die.”

On Thursday’s show, we will speak with a death penalty opponent, Kirk Bloodsworth. He was convicted in the brutal murder of a 9-year-old girl and sentenced to death. He served nearly nine years in prison but he was later exonerated because of DNA evidence in 1993.

“You know honestly sitting there all those years, eight years, 10 months and 19 days,” he said. “I have to tell you we can get it wrong and we have many times.”

Guest

  • Robert Blecker, professor of criminal law at New York Law School and the author of “The Death of Punishment.” He tweets @RobertBlecker.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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