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NEW RESOURCES: Bureau of Justice Statistics Releases "Capital Punishment, 2010"

On December 20, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual set of statistical tables on the death penalty in the United States, covering information for 2010. Hightlights from the report include:
-The average time spent on death row for those executed in 2010 was longer than for any previous year since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. The average time between sentencing and execution for those executed in 2010 was 14.8 years.
-During 2010, 119 inmates were removed from death row: 53 had their sentences or convictions overturned or were granted commutations; 20 died by means other than execution; and 46 (38%) were executed.
-At the close of 2010, there were 388 Hispanics on death row, accounting for 12% of the nation's death row population. -Four states (California, Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania) accounted for more than 50% of all inmates on death row.
-Of the 7,879 inmates sentenced to death between 1977 and 2010, 16% have been executed. Six percent (6%) died by causes other than execution, and 39% eventually received other dispositions.

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TIME ON DEATH ROW: Justice Breyer Points to Constitutional Problems

For some Supreme Court Justices and international courts, the extensive time that many inmates spend on U.S. death rows has raised concerns about cruel and unusual punishment.  In a recent dissent regarding the execution of Manuel Valle in Florida, Justice Stephen Breyer argued that Valle should not be executed because the 33 years he already spent on death row amounted to a violation of the Eighth Amendment.  In an earlier dissent in 1999, Justice Breyer noted that the Constitution did not foresee such delays, “Our Constitution was written at a time when delay between sentencing and execution could be measured in days or weeks, not decades.”  Justice Breyer’s concerns are in line with leading international legal opinion regarding the debilitating isolation common to death row.  Foreign courts have ruled that living for decades while facing execution is a form of psychological torment.  Sarah H. Cleveland, a Columbia law professor and former State Department official, said, “Although concerns about the human impact of excessive time spent on death row have received little attention in this country, the ‘death row phenomenon’ — including lengthy time on death row — has been recognized as inhuman punishment and illegal throughout Europe since the 1980s.”  In a 1993 opinion, the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council wrote, “There is an instinctive revulsion against the prospect of hanging a man after he has been held under sentence of death for many years.” Justice Breyer concluded that a death penalty system that cannot be administered without long delays points to “the difficulty of reconciling the imposition of the death penalty as currently administered with procedures necessary to assure that the wrong person is not executed.”  While on the Court, Justice John Paul Stevens also expressed concerns about the cruelty of extended time on death row. 


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NEW RESOURCES: DPIC's Latest Podcast Addresses Death Row Conditions and Related Issues

The latest edition of the Death Penalty Information Center's series of podcasts, DPIC on the Issues, is now available for listening or downloading. This podcast--the 16th in the series--discusses the little-understood world of death row, exploring the conditions on the row and the length of time prisoners spend there. The podcast discusses some of the legal issues that have arisen regarding the extended deprivation and isolation common to death rows around the country, including the risk of mental deterioration among the inmates.  First-hand descriptions of the death-row experience are also offered. Click here to listen to this latest podcast.  Generally, these podcasts offer concise, informative discussions of important death penalty issues. Other recent episodes focused on the U.S. Supreme Court and the Legal Process involved in a capital case. You can subscribe to receive automatic updates through iTunes when new episodes are posted and receive access to all previous episodes. Other audio and video resources, along with all of DPIC's podcasts, can be found on our Multimedia page.


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NEW RESOURCES: 2011 DEATH ROW USA Report Now Available

The latest edition of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's "Death Row USA" showed a slight increase of 9 inmates in the death row population in the United States between October 1, 2010 and January 1, 2011. However, death row is still significantly smaller now (3,251 inmates) than in 2000 (3,682 inmates). The size of death row also declined overall in 2010.  The size of death row is affected by the number of death sentences and the number of executions. Nationally, the racial composition of those on death row is 44% white, 42% black, and 12% Latino/Latina. Texas, Louisiana, and Connecticut had death rows consisting of 70% minority defendants.  California continues to have the largest death row population (721), followed by Florida (398), Texas (321), Pennsylvania (219), and Alabama (206). California and Pennsylvania have not carried out an executiion in over five years.  The report contains the latest death row population figures, execution statistics, and an overview of recent legal developments related to capital punishment.


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NEW RESOURCES: Most Recent DEATH ROW USA Report Now Available

The latest edition of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's "Death Row USA" shows that the number of people on death row in the United States is continuing to slowly decline, falling to 3,242 as of October 1, 2010. In 2000, there were 3,682 inmates on death row.  Nationally, the racial composition of those on death row is 44% white, 42% black, and 12% Latino/Latina. California continues to have the largest death row population (714), followed by Florida (394) and Texas (322). Pennsylvania (220) and Alabama (204) complete the list of the states with the five largest death rows in the country.  California and Pennsylvania have not carried out an executiion in over five years.  Death Row USA is published quarterly by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The report contains the latest death row population figures, execution statistics, and an overview of recent legal developments related to capital punishment.


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NEW RESOURCES: Most Recent DEATH ROW USA Report Now Available

The latest edition of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's "Death Row USA" shows that the number of people on the death row in the United States is continuing to slowly decline, falling to 3,260 as of April 1, 2010. In 2000, there were 3,682 inmates on death row.  Nationally, the racial composition of those on death row is 44% white, 41% black, and 12% Latino/Latina. California continues to have the largest death row population (702), followed by Florida (398) and Texas (333). Pennsylvania (222) and Alabama (204) complete the list of the states with the five largest death rows in the country. Of those jurisdictions with more than 10 inmates on death row, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas have the largest percentage of minorities on death row--each has 69%.


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