New Episode of Ms.’s On The Issues With Michele Goodwin Podcast: Why Does the Death Penalty Still Exist in the U.S.?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | February 23, 2021

On the Issues with Michele Goodwin is a popular issues- and policy-focused podcast featuring feminist analysis, insightful conversations and exciting guests. This is the first podcast from Ms. magazine, a legacy feminist publication. In each bi-weekly episode, host Dr. Michele Goodwin and special guests will tackle the most compelling issues of our times, centering feminist concerns about rebuilding our nation and advancing the promise of equality.

A new episode— Why Does the Death Penalty Still Exist in the U.S.? (with Stephen Rohde)—is available now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and

On January 16, 2021, the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dustin Higgs became the 13th and final person executed by the Trump administration—just days before Inauguration Day for President Joe Biden, the first sitting president to openly oppose the death penalty.

President Trump’s spate of executions began six months before Biden’s inauguration, with six executions occurring in the period after he lost the election. Overall, the former president oversaw “the most consecutive civilian executions by the federal government or any state in the 244-year history of the United States” and “ended a 17-year bipartisan federal moratorium” on executions, according to this week’s guest Stephen Rohde.

This week, Dr. Goodwin and her guest ask: What purpose does the death penalty serve? How have race and racism marked the implementation of the death penalty? Is there ever a humane way to kill another person? With public support for the death penalty waning in the U.S. and across the world, how can the U.S. continue to justify it, both federally and in individual states?

Dr. Goodwin is joined by Stephen Rohde, a constitutional scholar, lecturer, writer, political activist and retired civil rights lawyer who serves on the board of Death Penalty Focus.

Their conversation covered a wide range of topics; you can find a full transcript here, as well as a few excerpts below:

“[T]hese cases are always up against the immense resources of the state to bring in forensics and other experts to try to convince the jury to issue a verdict of death.”

“The defense has to scramble to find family members, medical records, social profiles, and the rest is a duty of our criminal punishment system at all stages to really ask the question, are we going to judge someone by the worst moment of their lives, if in fact they have committed such a crime.”

“[T]oo often, when you do take the lid off that garbage can. You see how the sausage is made. It is reprehensible to rush cases to judgment, involving the permanent elimination of the defendant through execution.” —Stephen Rohde

Meet the Host of On the Issues: Dr. Michele Goodwin is a frequent contributor to Ms.Magazine and on She is a Chancellor’s Professor at the University of California, Irvine and also serves on the executive committee and national board of the ACLU. Dr. Goodwin is a prolific author and an elected member of the American Law Institute, as well as an elected Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the Hastings Center. Her most recent book, Policing The Womb: Invisible Women and The Criminalization of Motherhood, is described as a “must read.”

About Ms. Magazine: Co-founded by Gloria Steinem in 1972 and published by the Feminist Majority Foundation since 2001, Ms. magazine has been a trusted, popular source for feminist news and information in print and online for nearly 50 years. Ms.’s time-honored traditions of an emphasis on in-depth investigative reporting and feminist political analysis have never been more relevant, bringing a new generation of writers and readers together to share news, analysis, research and strategies for fighting back and moving forward, for shaping the future.


If you would like more information on the On the Issues with Michele Goodwin podcast, or to schedule an interview with Host Michele Goodwin or Executive Producer & Ms. Executive Editor Katherine Spillar, please email

Launched in 1971, Ms. is the most trusted, popular source for feminist news and information in print and online with a tradition of in-depth investigative reporting and feminist political analysis. Ms. is wholly owned and published by the Feminist Majority Foundation.