I believe the definition of being hypocritical would fit perfectly with someone who can oppose the death penalty and at the same time want to apply it. This is obvious. Anyone who can oppose such a thing and then want to use it, is not being truthful in one aspect or the other. Unfortunately, politicians are often awarded for supporting initiatives they don't believe in, so this kind of hypocrisy is common in all politics.
Yes, Janet Reno was being hypocritical because opposing the death penalty means not applying it whatsoever in any circumstance. To apply the death penalty to certain people is discriminatory and wrong. Opposing the death penalty means no person, no matter how grievous their crime might be, will receive the death. To think otherwise is contradictory.
Janet Reno made no secret of being opposed to the death penalty as an option for capital crimes, instead of life in prison. However, as the chief law enforcement officer in the United States under the Clinton administration, she continually condoned its use - both implicitly and verbally. Had she really felt a true conviction against the death penalty, she would have taken a stronger stance against it.
She was not being a hypocrite because it was her job to make sure people are punished according to the law. Imagine a judge giving someone 5 years in prison for mass murder just because they didn't believe in life sentences or the death penalty. It was not hypocritical .
Janet Reno isn't hypocritical for opposing the death penalty while still be willing to apply it. That's because she follows the law like any other person in the United States. Reno can be opposed to the death penalty while still being within the law. By the same token, someone can be opposed to abortion yet still feel like it isn't their place to tell another woman how to live her life.
No, Janet Reno was not hypocritical for opposing the death penalty, even though she was willing to apply it, because that is exactly what a public official is supposed to do. As a prosecutor, or later as Attorney General, it was her duty to support and uphold the laws of the United States, even if she personally disagreed with them.