Death Penalty
October 18, 2018
Will capital punishment survive new challenges?

In a bid to stem the nation’s opioid epidemic, President Trump this year called for applying the death penalty in major drug cases. But death penalty opponents question the constitutionality of such a strategy and say it would not be an effective way to fight illegal drug use. While public backing of capital punishment remains far below levels of two decades ago, polls show rising support for it. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court heard arguments in October against executing an Alabama inmate who says he no longer remembers his crime, but the court has declined recently to hear other challenges to capital punishment. Death penalty opponents fear the court will continue to turn down such cases now that conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh has joined the court. Pharmaceutical companies, meanwhile, are increasingly taking legal action to prevent use of their drugs in lethal injections, forcing states to use other drugs that death penalty opponents say make botched executions more likely.

Convicted murderer Carey Dean Moore was executed by lethal injection in Nebraska on Aug. 14, 2018, after two pharmaceutical companies failed in their bid to block the use of their drugs in the execution. (AP Photo/File/Nebraska Department of Correctional Services)   Convicted murderer Carey Dean Moore was executed by lethal injection in Nebraska on Aug. 14, 2018, after two pharmaceutical companies failed in their bid to block the use of their drugs in the execution. (AP Photo/File/Nebraska Department of Correctional Services)

In March, President Trump called for applying the death penalty to major drug crimes as part of his administration’s effort to stem a national epidemic of opioid abuse. Opioid overdoses killed almost 50,000 people last year, according to federal estimates. 1

“If we don’t get tough on drug dealers we’re wasting our time,” Trump told an audience in New Hampshire. “And that toughness includes the death penalty.” 2

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