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Questions of Execution

While public support for capital punishment has dropped from a high of 80% in 1994, a Gallup Poll in Feb. 2000 found that the majority of Americans (66%) continue to support it. Almost half of those polled, however, expressed reservations about how the death penalty is carried out. Since 1976, 82 death-row prisoners have been found innocent. In Jan. 2000, Gov. George Ryan (Ill.-R), a death penalty supporter, announced that he had “grave concerns about our state's shameful record of convicting innocent people,” and called for a moratorium. In June, a Columbia University study indicated that two-thirds of all capital punishment cases contained flaws serious enough to warrant retrial, and in September a Justice Dept. report condemned the federal death penalty system for glaring geographical and racial disparities. Bills have been introduced in both the Senate and the House to provide for post-conviction DNA testing in death penalty cases and to ensure that defendants receive competent defense.

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