More than at any time over the past 30 years, the future of capital punishment is in limbo.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments next term in a momentous lethal injection case. While it’s widely expected that executions will resume in some form following that case, the moment gives Americans a chance to contemplate what would change if they stopped for good.
* States with many death-penalty cases would save millions of dollars now spent on legal costs in long-running appeals.
* Abroad, notably in Europe and Canada, America’s image would improve in countries that abolished capital punishment decades ago and now wonder why America remains one of only a handful of prosperous democracies that continue with executions.
* Among the American public, reaction would be deeply divided. Death penalty supporters would decry the loss of what they consider a valuable crime deterrent as well as the ultimate form of justice for victims and their families. Foes of execution would welcome the end of what they have deemed a barbaric national tradition.