Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday asserted that the death penalty prevented "the most heinous crimes."
During a town hall event in Grand Junction, Colorado, a man who identified himself a "the local D.A." asked Romney to respond to a recent Supreme Court ruling that banned mandatory life sentences for minors who are convicted of murder.
Instead of taking a position on the Supreme Court ruling, the former Massachusetts governor took the opportunity to express his support for capital punishment.
"I realize that this wasn't a death penalty case... but I happen to believe that the death penalty tends to prevent some of the most heinous crimes," Romney said, pausing for the audience to cheer.
"And I also believe that the prison terms that are of the nature you describe can also prevent some of the most heinous crimes from occurring," the candidate continued. "I believe in this case, the Supreme Court was looking at the age of the offender. Boy, I'll tell you, a 17 year old, a setting like that just breaks my heart. I'll look at the particular case."
"But I can tell you, I'm someone who comes down on the side of swift and severe punishment for those who commit these serious crimes."
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, non-death penalty states had a 25 percent lower murder rate than states with the death penalty in 2010. In fact, states without a death penalty have had consistently lower murder rates every year for the last 20 years.
A 2009 study (PDF) published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology found that 88 percent of the country's top criminologists did not believe the death penalty was a deterrent.