In the wake of Oklahoma’s horrifying mis-execution of Clayton Lockett, could the death penalty itself die off? It seems impossible, I know. Polls show support falling, but still at about 55 percent. And yet, that’s the death penalty in the abstract. On the ground, in many states, a different reality is playing out—one that demonstrates growing discomfort with capital punishment.
There is one looming exception to this rule: the South. The death
penalty has become largely a regional phenomenon that divides the
South—or, really, parts of the South—from the rest of the country. While
the death penalty remains legal in 32 states,
actual death sentences and executions are concentrated in a small and
shrinking number of them. The death penalty won’t be abolished
throughout America anytime soon. But it could quietly fall into disuse
in all but a small number of holdouts.