As part of its campaign to abolish the death penalty, Amnesty International USA
has declared Feb. 27 to March 11 Death Penalty Action Weeks. During that period
the group will organize protests, workshops, online forums, and other events.
Although support for the death penalty appears to be dwindling in this country,
there are still 34 states whose laws permit it. Many well-meaning people who
support the policy hold beliefs about it that are not supported by the facts.
Take the following quiz to see how much you know about this important issue.
How much do you know about the death penalty?
True or false?
1. The death penalty deters murder.
2. “Life without parole” (permanent imprisonment) is more expensive than the
3. In most murders, the victim and the murderer belong to different races.
4. People of color are murdered more frequently than whites, proportionately to
their numbers in the general population.
5. Those who murder people of color represent about 80 % of those who have been
6. Most people on death row could afford a lawyer.
7. 29 people have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death since the 1970s
in the United States.
8. Findings involving DNA are the main reason for death row exonerations.
9. Belarus is the only European country that has the death penalty.
10. In 2009, most of the executions in the world happened in these 5 countries:
China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.
1. False. 88% of this country’s top academic criminologists reject the idea
that the death penalty deters crime. States without the death penalty have
lower murder rates. Most murders are crimes of passion and are not
2. False. A death sentence is far more costly than life without parole; legal
expenses are much higher in capital cases and most of those costs are accrued
during the trial, not during the appeals process. States spend millions more
dollars on the death penalty than they would if all death-row prisoners had
been sentenced to life without parole.
3. False. Most murders occur within the same racial group.
4. True. About 1/2 of all murder victims are African-American.
5. False. On the contrary, 77 % of those executed were convicted of killing
white victims. People of color who murder whites are far more likely to be
sentenced to death than whites who murder people of color.
6. False. An overwhelming majority of death-row inmates could not afford a
lawyer and were assigned court-appointed lawyers. Even public defenders who
care about their clients are often overloaded with cases and have few
resources. There have been numerous cases involving public defenders who slept
or were drunk during trials. In Georgia, 5 men on death row had been referred
to with a racial slur in court by their own attorneys.
7. False. As of October 2011, 138 people had been exonerated and released from
death row. It has been estimated that at least 12 persons have been wrongly
executed in recent decades (see the report “Reasonable Doubts” by Equal Justice
USA at www.ejusa.org).
8. False. The majority of death-penalty cases do not involve biological
material that can be tested for DNA. Most wrongful convictions have involved
not DNA, but prosecutorial and police misconduct and mistaken eyewitness
9. True. Only Belarus has the death penalty in Europe, and the European Union
has banned it. South Africa repealed capital punishment when it abandoned
apartheid. South Africans had studied the U.S. death penalty and concluded that
it was not good for a country trying to move toward racial equality. 2/3 of the
world’s nations no longer impose the death penalty.
(source: The Concord Journal)