While American support for the death penalty continues to decline, the Trump administration in its waning days seeks to return electrocution and firing squads as means of capital punishment.
And several supporters of Donald Trump’s failed re-election bid this week have suggested that those who have stood in his way with facts should be drawn and quartered or put before a firing squad.
This all played out in a week when the Trump administration continued its push to carry out five more executions of death-row prisoners — after already killing more death row inmates in five months of this year than the federal government had executed in the previous 50 years.
“Federal executions during the transition of administrations are extremely rare; the last time it occurred … was 100 years ago.”
This sudden burst of federal executions was the topic of a Nov. 29 editorial in the Washington Post, which noted: “Federal executions during the transition of administrations are extremely rare; the last time it occurred, according to Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center, was 100 years ago.”
The Post’s claims have been verified by the online fact-checking site Snopes.
Snopes reported: “The U.S. Department of Justice in the summer of 2020 ended a 17-year hiatus on federal executions. According to statistics gathered by the nonpartisan research nonprofit organization Death Penalty Information Center, the DOJ had put to death eight people starting in July 2020. Until then, only three people had been executed by the federal government from 1970 to 2020.”
But not only the execution of convicted prisoners made the news this week.
On Nov. 30, an attorney for Trump’s re-election campaign said Christopher Krebs, the government’s former top cybersecurity chief who was fired by Trump after publicly saying the election was free of fraud, should be executed.
Speaking on a Monday episode of the “Howie Carr Show,” Trump attorney Joe DiGenova said of Krebs: “That guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered, taken out at dawn and shot.”
Just a few days before, Rick Wiles, senior pastor of Flowing Streams Church in Florida, said on his own news program that the Trump administration should “start shooting” Democrats and members of the media in firing squads if it turns out they conspired to rig the presidential election.
“They’re gonna have a bunch of traitors. They’re gonna line ’em up against the wall and start shooting them.”
Noting that the Justice Department has created a new rule allowing for firing squads to be used in federal executions, he said: “I’m not trying to be funny but (it’s been fast-tracked) because they plan to shoot some people. They’re gonna have a bunch of traitors. They’re gonna line ’em up against the wall and start shooting them. Because that’s what they deserve.”
In Georgia, Trump supporters who falsely believe massive election fraud stole the election from Trump have taken to Twitter to accuse a young technician of altering votes and said the employee should be “hung for treason.” There is no evidence this employee or any Georgia elections employee did anything improper.
That prompted a Republican official in Georgia to break ranks with the other Republican officials in the state — including the two senators facing run-off elections — who have refused to debunk Trump’s outlandish claims about election fraud. Gabriel Sterling, who works in the Georgia secretary of state’s office, gave an emotional plea saying, “Someone’s going to get shot.”
Few Republican elected officials have spoken against any of this death talk — whether to speak to execution of convicted criminals or threatened execution of the president’s perceived enemies.
Few Republican elected officials have spoken against any of this death talk.
Of the federal death penalty, Gallup recently reported that Americans’ support for it continues to be lower than at any point in nearly five decades.
“For a fourth consecutive year, fewer than six in 10 Americans (55%) are in favor of the death penalty for convicted murderers,” Gallup said. “Death penalty support has not been lower since 1972, when 50% were in favor.”
Gallup has asked Americans whether they are “in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder” since 1936, when 58% said they were. In all but one survey — in 1966 — more Americans have been in favor than opposed. Although a slim majority of Americans continue to say they support federal executions, support has been declining. It peaked at 80% in 1994.
A 2019 Gallup survey also asked whether respondents believe the better punishment for murder is the death penalty or life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. Last year, Americans favored life imprisonment over the death penalty by 60% to 36%, what Gallup calls “a dramatic shift from prior years.”
“Many Americans are thus conflicted on the death penalty,” the report concludes. “The two Gallup trend questions indicate that about one in five Americans express theoretical support for use of the death penalty but believe life imprisonment is a better way to punish convicted murderers.
Declining support for the death penalty is most noted among Democrats (39%) and independents (54%). Republicans’ support for the death penalty has held steady, with 79% currently supporting it, unchanged since 2016.