Shifting Politics on the Death Penalty

In January 1992, Bill Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas, left the presidential campaign trail to fly home for the execution of a man named Ricky Ray Rector. Mr. Clinton’s decision not to grant clemency to Mr. Rector, who had been sentenced to death for killing a police officer, was widely seen as an attempt to fend off the familiar charge that Democrats were soft on crime.
On Dec. 31, Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, whose name has been mentioned among potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidates, commuted the sentences of the last 4 inmates on the state’s death row.
Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013, but only for new sentences. In resentencing the condemned men to life without parole, Mr. O’Malley said that leaving their death sentences in place would “not serve the public good of the people of Maryland – present or future.”
Whether or not Mr. O’Malley runs for president, his action is a mark of how quickly the death penalty debate in America has shifted.
Continue reading the editorial at the New York Times.