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Office of the Governor
130 State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
St. Paul, MN 55155

Dear Governor Pawlenty:

I am writing to express my opposition to reinstating the death penalty in Minnesota. For 93 years, Minnesota has been an abolitionist state. This conviction has held firm against multiple, but unsuccessful, attempts to reintroduce capital punishment in Minnesota. I firmly believe that our stance against the death penalty is part of the tradition and history of this great state. In addition, I oppose the death penalty for several reasons I have outlined below.

First, the death penalty will cost Minnesota taxpayers millions of dollars. In a 1992 fiscal note, the Minnesota Department of Corrections estimated that it would cost $3,071,000 to construct a death row, $283,898 to maintain it in the first year, and $1,800,000 to $3,200,000 in court costs for each capital case. In fact, the average cost of a capital case is $2.3 million, or about three times the cost of incarcerating a high security prisoner for forty years. At a time of reduced budget spending and rising taxes, we should not siphon much-needed funds from other important programs to fund capital punishment.

Furthermore, the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. A New York Times survey, released in 2000, found that the homicide rates in death penalty states were 48% to 101% higher than in abolitionist states. In fact, according to the FBI, ten of the twelve abolitionist states have murder rates lower than the national average. Minnesota already has one of the lowest homicide rates in the country. I do not believe that executing Minnesotans is the solution to reduce crime in our state.

Third, the death penalty is arbitrary and capricious. The administration of capital punishment, even with genetic fingerprinting, is flawed. Inadequate representation and arbitrariness is prevalent across different capital systems, regardless of safeguards. Ninety-five percent of death row inmates cannot afford their own attorneys. Individuals, even co-defendants, charged with committing the same crime, often receive different punishments. Since 1973, 112 innocent persons have been exonerated and released from death row. With our inherently flawed criminal justice system, the risk is too great that innocent people will die.

Finally, the death penalty is administered in a racist manner. Black defendants who kill white victims are several times more likely to be sentenced to death than white defendants who kill black victims. Reintroducing capital punishment is Minnesota is particularly alarming as Minnesota already has the largest disparity rate between black and white incarceration rates than any other state. A capital punishment system will only exacerbate an already existing problem of racism in the Minnesota criminal justice system.

Minnesota has long been, and should remain, a state that rejects the idea of taking the lives of its citizens. I ask you to reverse your call to reinstate the death penalty and preserve Minnesota’s commitment to human rights. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your response.



 Letter to Governor Pawlenty   Download this letter opposing the death penalty to print and send to Governor Pawlenty. The letter may be edited as needed.