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Survey Reveals How Asian Americans Feel About Death Penalty

In a recent survey of California registered voters, the National Asian American Survey found that like most Californians, Asian/Pacific Islander Americans were in favor of keeping the death penalty, with 47.1 percent in favor. Overall, 55.9 percent of Californians were in favor, with 57.3 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 57.5 percent of Latinos, and 46.4 percent of African Americans in favor of keeping the death penalty.

However, when asked about a federal ruling that California’s death penalty law is unconstitutional because it takes so long for the state to carry out, answers were more ambivalent, with 43.8 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander Americans in favor of speeding up the process and 39.4 percent in favor of replacing the death penalty with life in prison.

“More AANHPIs [Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders] are undecided about the death penalty,” said Paul Jung, a Law Fellow at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, “indicating that we need more community education on criminal justice issues and particularly in Asian languages.”

Latinos were similarly ambivalent. Overall, 51.9 percent of respondents were in favor of speeding up the process and 39.6 percent were in favor of replacing with life in prison.

This issue is of historic importance to the Asian/Pacific Islander American community. “One of the first national pan-Asian movements was the campaign to free Mr. Chol Soo Lee who was wrongly convicted of a killing in 1973,” said Jung. “Due to the investigative reporting by K.W. Lee and Asian-American organizing that led to the Free Chol Soo Lee Defense Committee, Mr. Lee was freed from death row in 1983.”

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