Lethal Injection room
The Death Penalty Information Center recently released its annual report, finding the death penalty is receding. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Recently released data shows that the number of death sentences handed out in court and executions carried out have both dropped to new lows. Legal and ethical difficulties and costs are among the chief reasons for the decline in the death penalty.

Fewest death sentences since 1976

The Death Penalty Information Center, according to MSNBC, has just released its annual report on the state of capital punishment in America. In terms of death sentences handed down and executions carried out, capital punishment is declining. Death sentences declined by nearly 75 percent in the past 15 years and executions declined by 60 percent in the same period.
In total, 43 people in 13 states were put to death in 2011, compared to 46 in 2010 and, according to USA Today, 85 in 2000. In 1999, there were 98.
This year, 78 people were sentenced to death, the first time that fewer than 100 death sentences were handed out in a year since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976. In 2010, 112 people were sentenced to death. In 2000, there were 224.

Texas still number one

The state that carried out the most executions was Texas, which has accounted for 37 percent of all executions in the United States since 1976. Texas carried out 13 this year and 17 last year. Alabama was second with six, compared to five last year. Ohio carried out five executions this year and eight last year. Georgia and Arizona both carried out four executions this year and two and one executions last year, respectively.
In all, according to USA Today, 34 states have the death penalty. However, two states have taken it off the table, as Illinois repealed the death penalty and a moratorium was declared in Oregon by Gov. John Kitzhaber last month, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Cost and ethical dilemmas behind decline

Though a Gallup poll this year revealed 61 percent of Americans were in favor of capital punishment, the support is slowly waning. Similar polls found 68 percent supported the death penalty in 2001 and 80 percent did in 1994.
The sheer cost of capital punishment is also a factor. According to Fox News, the Death Penalty Information Center has found that a death penalty trial alone costs $1 million more than a trial that doesn’t involve the death penalty. A Duke University study found the state of North Carolina could save $11 million per year by abolishing the death penalty in favor of life imprisonment without parole.
The state of California only executes one percent of death row inmates and, according to the Huffington Post, has spent $4 billion on death penalty cases, securing prisoners and executions. Given that California has executed 13 people since 1978, that works out to a cost of $308 million per inmate.

Sources

MSNBC: http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/15/9444627-death-sentences-executions-take-historic-drop-report-says

USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-12-15/death-penalty-executions/51935452/1

Los Angeles Times: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/12/death-sentences-plummet-which-texas-leads-states-executions.html

Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/03/27/just-cost-death-penalty-killer-state-budgets/

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/20/california-death-penalty-_0_n_880436.html

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