Death penalty declines in US: report

AP, WASHINGTON

Wed, Dec 19, 2012 - Page 7

Just four states carried out more than three-fourths of the executions in the US this year, while another 23 states have not put an inmate to death in 10 years, an anti-capital punishment group report said.

The Death Penalty Information Center said in its annual report that Texas led the US — as it does every year — with 15 executions, while Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma had six each. Together, the four states accounted for 33 of the 43 executions in the US this year.

Both executions and new death sentences are far below their peaks since executions resumed in 1977 following a halt imposed by the US Supreme Court. Texas’ 492 executions since 1977 are by far the most. No more executions are scheduled before the end of the year, the group said.

“By every count, the death penalty is declining and becoming less relevant. It’s not turned to even in states that have been strong proponents of the death penalty. I’d even include Texas, which is sentencing many fewer people to death,” said Richard Dieter, the center’s executive director and author of the report.

Dieter added that Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia had not carried out any executions this year.

The exoneration of the wrongly convicted, the availability of prison terms of life without parole, and the cost of capital trials and the appeals process all are factors in the decline, Dieter said.

The 43 executions equal last year’s total and were roughly half as many as in 2000.

The reduced pace of executions was similar to the persistent decline in new death sentences.

Seventy-eight people convicted of murder have been sentenced to death so far this year, the report said.

Again, just four states accounted for nearly two-thirds of death sentences given nationwide. Florida added 21 inmates to death row, while California had 15, Texas had 9 and Alabama, 7.