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The argument against capital punishment dates back to the colonial period in America, with one of the most famous early texts being Cesare Beccaria's On Crimes and Punishment, published in 1767. The movement gained wider attention at the end of the nineteenth century with the rise of progressive ideals. In recent history, there have been several influential court decisions on the constitutionality of capital punishment, first in Furman v Georgia in 1972, in which the Supreme Court found the practice of capital punishment unconstitutional, but did not mandate that states update their individual practices. This decision was later overturned in 1976 with Gregg v. Georgia.
Anti-death penalty activists frequently point to the disproportionate amount of African American and Hispanic Americans executed. Studies which have shown that the "deterrent" factor - death penalty as a means to deter others from committing similar crimes- has little to no effect on crime rates. Between 1973 and 2005, 123 people were released from death row after being exonerated leading activists to argue that the death penalty will inevitably lead to the execution of innocent people. As of October 2019, 42% of Americans were opposed to the death penalty, with 56% in favor, and 2% having no opinion.
"Death Penalty". (2019). Gallup. Retrieved July 25, 2020 from https://news.gallup.com/poll/1606/death-penalty.aspx.
Haines, Herbert H (1996). Against Capital Punishment: Anti-Death Penalty Movement in America, 1972–1994. Oxford University Press.
Londono, O. (2013), "A Retributive Critique of Racial Bias and Arbitrariness in Capital Punishment". Journal of Social Philosophy, 44: 95–105.