I have previously written about the phrase, "evolving standards of decency," which is used in Eighth Amendment jurisprudence to analyze whether a given practice is cruel and unusual. While the Supreme Court has so far refused to find that capital punishment offends "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society," there has been positive movement on the state level, as the death penalty is increasingly seen as too arbitrary, too fallible and too costly to remain on the books.
New Jersey (in 2009) and New Mexico (in 2007) are the states that most recently abolished the death penalty, and now Illinois seems on the verge of doing the same. Both Illinois state houses approved a bill to repeal the death penalty and reallocate the money saved to the Capital Litigation Trust Fund, which will assist victims' families and improve law enforcement. It comes down to Governor Quinn to sign the bill into law and make Illinois the 16th state without capital punishment. He has until March 18th to make a decision, at which time the bill will automatically become law. (It is still worth calling and urging him to sign:
The state legislature is considering a repeal bill, and a judiciary committee hearing will be held this month.
that argues that the death penalty has not made us safer and that the money spent every year on the death penalty could be far more productively used to put more cops on the street and to fund programs which aim to stop recidivism.
Unevolved and Indecent, The Year in Death, Ending the Cycle of Violence in the Land of Lincoln]