Winthrop Rockefeller and the Death Penalty

Apr 2, 2017

In 1970, in his last act in office, Winthrop Rockefeller, the first Republican governor of Arkansas since Reconstruction, commuted the death sentences of all fifteen prisoners on death row, eleven of them African American. “My position on capital punishment has been clear since long before I became governor,” Rockefeller said. “I am unalterably opposed to it and will remain so as long as I live. What earthly mortal has the omnipotence to say who among us shall live and who shall die? I do not. Moreover, in that the law grants me authority to set aside the death penalty, I cannot and will not turn my back on lifelong Christian teachings and beliefs, merely to let history run out its course on a fallible and failing theory of punitive justice.”