Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that there is evidence the death penalty has been applied “in a discriminatory way,” but told an audience here at the Politics and Eggs forum at she doesn’t support abolishing it.
Clinton has long been supportive of the death penalty, but is rarely asked about it and her comments on Wednesday are her most comprehensive in years. This is the first time she has been asked about it during the 2016 campaign.
“I think that we have a lot of evidence now that the death penalty has been too frequently applied and very unfortunately in a discriminatory way,” Clinton said at Saint Anselm’s College. “So I think we have to take a hard look at it and a lot of states are doing that.”
Clinton said that the United State needs to be “smarter and more careful” about how the death penalty is applied, but that in some “egregious” cases, capital punishment is still needed.
“I do not favor abolishing it, however,” Clinton said, arguing that it should be used in “very limited and rare” instances.
Clinton supported keeping the death penalty during her 2008 run, but the issue rarely came up. During her 2000 run for Senate, Clinton said the death penalty had her “unenthusiastic support.”
The Democratic Party base has started to move against capital punishment. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s biggest competitor for the Democratic nomination, has long been against the death penalty, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley abolished capital punishment in Maryland when he was the state’s chief executive.
States have started to move against the death penalty, too, concerned over its application and the possibility that innocent men and women could be put to death. Nebraska, one of the most conservative states in the nation, will vote on abolishing the death penalty next year. The unicameral legislature in Nebraska earlier this year did away with the death penalty over fervent objections by the state’s Republican governor.
“States are beginning to pull back from either applying the death penalty or narrowing the scope of the cases where it can be applied,” Clinton said approvingly.
The Supreme Court heard arguments concerning the death penalty earlier this month.