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States abolishing death penalty, despite public support for it

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Death penalty opponents
In this 2007 file photo, death penalty protesters gather outside a South Dakota prison.
MPR Photo/Mark Steil

The death penalty is legal in 32 states, but that number is shrinking.

In the past five years, five states have abolished the death penalty. Maryland is set to join their ranks this year, and a bill abolishing the death penalty has passed the Delaware Senate and is now heading for the House.

Meanwhile, a Gallup public opinion poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans are in favor of the death penalty.

Mark Osler, law professor and author of "Jesus on Death Row," and Franklin Zimiring, law professor and author of "The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment," join The Daily Circuit to discuss what's driving the change among the states. 

Also joining the program is Greg Dobbs, columnist for the Denver Post and former ABC News correspondent. He recently wrote a column defending the death penalty.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE DEATH PENALTY:

• America's Retreat From the Death Penalty. A New York Times editorial looking at the diminishing number of states that still allow the death penalty.

•  Death in Little Rock. The Economist takes a look at "Politicians with national ambitions [who] are suddenly willing to challenge the death penalty."

• Colo. prosecutors seek execution in theater attack."'It's my determination and my intention that in this case, for James Eagan Holmes, justice is death,' District Attorney George Brauchler said, adding that he had discussed the case with 60 people who lost relatives in the July 20 shooting rampage."

• The much-needed demise of Maryland's death penalty. From The Washington Post: "The progress of repeal in one state capital after another is evidence that the nation is finally lining up with most of the West's other democracies."