This week, Pope Francis revised the Catholic church's teachings on the death penalty, declaring that it is unacceptable in all cases.
"The church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide," he said in an official statement from the Vatican. This might lay the ground for conflict among Catholics in the United States, many of whom support the death penalty.
But among all Americans, support for the death penalty is the lowest since the early '70s. The most recent Gallup poll finds that 55 percent favor the death penalty and 41 percent oppose it. That's down from the historic high of 80 percent support and 16 percent opposition in 1994.
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The death penalty is still legal in 31 states, but the Pope's highly visible statement may provoke a re-evaluation of the policy in some of them.
Which states have the death penalty?
The following states still have the death penalty: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
In four states — Colorado, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington — the death penalty remains on the books but the governor has declared a moratorium.
Is the death penalty legal in New York?
The most recent state to abolish the death penalty was Delaware in 2016. The state that outlawed the death penalty earliest was Michigan in 1846.
The death penalty was outlawed in New York in 2004, when the state Court of Appeals ruled that a portion of the death penalty law was unconstitutional. In 2007, the last remaining death sentence was commuted to life in prison.
Following Pope Francis' lead, on Aug. 3 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would introduce legislation to strike the death penalty from New York law permanently, a move that is largely symbolic. "Today, in solidarity with Pope Francis and in honor of my father, I will be advancing legislation to remove the death penalty — and its ugly stain in our history — from state law once and for all,” said Cuomo. “The death penalty is morally indefensible and has no place in the 21st century."