Search About Subscribe Donate
Filed 3:20 a.m.

Exclusive: Obama Calls the Death Penalty “Deeply Troubling.”

A One-On-One Interview With the President

President Barack Obama called several aspects of the death penalty “deeply troubling” Thursday during an interview with The Marshall Project in which he also said he planned to speed up pardons and commutations and recalled moments when he suspected he had been racially profiled by police officers.

Asked by Editor-in-Chief Bill Keller if he was close to saying he is against capital punishment, Obama said that he was still struggling to resolve his own conflict. He said racial bias, wrongful imprisonment and botched executions had unsettled his long-held belief that the death penalty is appropriate for some heinous crimes.

“At a time when we’re spending a lot of time thinking about how to make the system more fair, more just, that we have to include an examination of the death penalty in that,” the president said. He has asked the Justice Department to conduct a review of the practice.

The discussion occurred Thursday ahead of a White House discussion on criminal justice reform with Obama and law enforcement leaders and moderated by Keller.

Obama also said he planned to pick up the pace of pardons and clemencies as he heads to the end of his second term.

Asked if he had ever been harassed by police, Obama spoke about traffic stops that left him wondering why he was pulled over.

“The times where I’ve gotten a ticket, the overwhelming majority I deserved it,” Obama said. “There have been a couple of times where I was not issued a ticket and it raises the question as to why I was stopped.”

Before you go...

Can you help us make a difference?

The Marshall Project produces journalism that makes an impact. Our investigation into violence using police dogs prompted departments from Indiana to Louisiana to change their policies. Thousands of cameras were installed in the infamous Attica prison after we revealed the extent of violent abuse by guards. Municipalities stopped charging parents for their kids’ incarceration because of our reporting. Supreme Court justices have cited us, along with incarcerated people acting as their own lawyers.

The type of reporting we practice takes persistence, skill and, above all, time, which is why we need your support. Thanks to generous readers like you, The Marshall Project has already raised nearly $25,000 of our $100,000 goal during our year-end campaign. The funds we raise now are going to be essential to sustaining this important work. We’ve still got a long way to go to reach our goal, though.

To help us get there, a generous group of donors will be matching all new donations. They’ve pledged $100,000 in matching funds and are matching donations dollar-for-dollar until our December 31 deadline. Will you join The Marshall Project today and double the impact of your donation?