In 1995, Fedell Caffey and Jacqueline Williams, wanting another baby, stabbed to death a pregnant woman and cut the baby from her womb. They then coldly eliminated her 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son from this world. A father, without reason, loses his wife and adored children. A mother and father lose their loving daughter and precious grandchildren all in the blink of an eye by the hands of two cold-blooded killers. These merciless killers received their just punishment and the sentence was death, but not all would agree. On January 11, 2003, Illinois Governor George Ryan reversed the legal decision of the courts and commuted their sentences to life in prison as some felt he turned his back on the grieving families. Others agreed with the Governor. Following the 13th exonerated death row inmates release, the Governor announced a moratorium on executions and was quoted,
"I cannot support a system which, in its administration, has proven so fraught with error and has come so close to the ultimate nightmare, the state's taking of innocent life [...] Until I can be sure that everyone sentenced to death in Illinois is truly guilty, until I can be sure with moral certainty that no innocent man or woman is facing a lethal injection, no one will meet that fate." (Greenwood, 2003 )
The majority of the American public are still in favor of capital punishment. A gallop pole in 1978 showed that 62% of all Americans favored the death penalty. The number increased to 80% in 1994. It declined slightly to 66% by the year 2000. In a recent gallop poll conducted May, 2003, showed that 74% of Americans favor the death penalty. This showed that 26% of Americans are against the death penalty. This data shows that a large majority of Americans favor the death penalty yet an active and vocal minority have shown strong opposition to this type of legislation as this issue is continually debated.
The daily debate rages with many differing opinions in regards to the facts and fallacies that surround this explosive issue. Many feel the death penalty is racist and is used disproportionately against minorities. The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty claims the imposition of the death penalty is racially biased and that "Nearly 90% of persons executed where convicted of killing whites, although people of color make up over half of all homicide victims in the United States". Claims of racism are argued with statistics. Others go as far to say they feel the white race is being discriminated as the following statistics suggest. Since 1976, the majority of those executed have been white. Between 1976 and 1999, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found that blacks committed 51.5% of murders and 46.5% murders were committed by whites during this twenty-three year period. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics also found that since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 by the Supreme Court, that whites make up the majority of those on death row in the year 2000. A total of 1,990 whites were on death row as compared to 1,535 blacks. That year 49 of the 85 executed were white (Eddlem, 2002).
The opponents of the death penalty also use statistics to support their claims of racism. Nodeathpemnalty.org reported that African Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population, while making up 43% of the prisoners on death row. African American make up for 50% of all murder victims, however 83% of victims in death penalty cases were white. A study done in Georgia found that killers of white are 4.3