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Hillary Clinton calls for limiting death penalty

The position makes Clinton the only candidate in the Democratic presidential primary field who supports the death penalty.

In the most extensive comments on capital punishment of her 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton on Wednesday called for greatly restricting, but not abolishing, the death penalty.

“We have a lot of evidence now that the death penalty has been too frequently applied, and too often in a discriminatory way,” she said in response to a question from an activist at a “Politics and Eggs” event at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“I do not favor abolishing it, however, because I do think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty. But I’d like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we’ve seen in most states," Clinton added.

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Clinton said states should be “smarter and more careful” in applying capital punishment, and she called for taking a “hard look” at the issue.

Both of Clinton’s Democratic primary opponents, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, oppose the death penalty.

O’Malley, who abolished the death penalty in Maryland, was quick to draw a contrast with Clinton on the issue. "The death penalty is racially-biased, ineffective deterrent to crime, and we must abolish it. Our nation should not be in the company of Iran, Iraq, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen in carrying out the majority of public executions,” he said in response to Clinton’s comments.

Clinton's stance appears consistent with her prior positions on the death penalty. When she ran for the Senate in 2000, Clinton said the death penalty had her “unenthusiastic support.” Clinton has made criminal justice reform a centerpiece of her 2016 campaign, using her first policy speech after declaring her presidential run to call for an end to the “era of mass incarceration.”

President Obama seems to have moved closer to opposing the death penalty, but is not there yet. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, famously flew home to Arkansas during the 1992 Democratic primary to oversee the execution of convicted cop killer Ricky Ray Rector, who some said was mentally unfit to be killed.