The following is from the Dec. 14, 2007, edition of Reuters. SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson provided expert commentary for this story.
By Ed Stoddard
DALLAS (Reuters) – New Jersey's abolition vote this week highlights scrutiny of the death penalty in America, and analysts say it could be a small step in the direction of an eventual nationwide ban.
But with capital punishment still on the books in 36 states, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, and broad political support for putting the worst offenders to death, the road to abolition will be long. . .
All the Republican presidential candidates, with the exception of Texan maverick Ron Paul, support the death penalty. On the Democratic side, the three front-runners, Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, all back it.
And political support is strongest in the South, which is expected to keep executing people until the Supreme Court tells it otherwise.
"The South is a region with a traditional political culture which sees the death penalty as a means of maintaining social order," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the South has carried out 901 of the 1,099 executions, since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a ban on the practice in 1976.
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