Conflict, contradiction, and ambivalence surround capital punishment in America. This has been true for centuries, but only now have we reached a state of profound confusion. More inmates were executed in our country in 1999 than in any year since 1952, and the execution rate has soared 800 percent in the past decade. At the same time, opposition to state killing — on moral, practical, and legal grounds — has intensified, as reflected in recent opinion polls, attempts by legislators to abolish or restrict the death penalty, and the refusal of many jurors to sentence killers to death.

Robert Jay Lifton, Greg Mitchell, Who Owns Death?