Wayne Morse's Opposition to the Death Penalty

During his career, Senator Morse was opposed to the death penalty, stating, “I do not think any bar of judgment set up by man has the moral or spiritual right to substitute itself for the Almighty.” In 1967, along with Senator Mark Hatfield and others, he co-sponsored a bill to abolish the death penalty in the United States.

Although he was always a strong supporter of law enforcement, Morse was also a relentless advocate for all forms of Constitutional protection under the law. In 1963, he introduced bills to promote the right to a speedy trial and to prevent the publishing of information outside of the courtroom in criminal cases.

During Senate debate on a bill to provide for a more effective control of narcotics in 1956, Morse expressed his ardent support for an amendment to strike a provision in the bill imposing capital punishment as one of the penalties. He professed:

“Human life does not belong to the Government. Human life belongs to God.
I shall never, as a United States Senator, sit in this body and vote to take human life as a penalty for the transgression of temporal law. I hold to the view that it is before the bar of God’s judgment and only before that bar, that human life should be taken.”