According to a new report released by the Death Penalty Information Center, death sentences and executions have reached their lowest levels since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the 1977.
The report states that there were 78 death sentences for murder convictions this year, as compared to the 315 death sentences given at the peak in 1996. This is the first year there have been less than 100 death sentences in 35 years.
In terms of executions, the 43 executions carried out in 2011 were roughly half as many executions as in 2000. Along with the sustained drop in overall numbers, executions seem to be concentrated in a few states. While Texas led with 13 executions this year, there were only 12 other states that also held executions this year. And since the reinstatement of the death penalty, Texas, Virgina, and Oklahoma account for more than half of the nation’s total executions.
The decreasing use of the death penalty, according to the report, is related to the “heightened awareness” around executing innocent women and men and the increasing availability of life without parole as a sentencing option. Also, with the elimination of the death penalty in Illinois and the moratorium in Oregon, the death penalty seems to be losing its appeal in the American judicial system.
Although the report states that “polls have consistently shown support for capital punishment remains strong, at 60 percent or higher,” when respondents are given the choice between death and life without parole, the support for the death penalty dramatically decreases.
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