Mounting Evidence of the Declining Use of the Death Penalty in U.S.

The May 8th edition of U.S. News & World Report highlights the declining number of death sentences handed down each year in the U.S., the smaller number of executions, and the growing number of states that are re-evaluating capital punishment.  Public support for the death penalty has also decreased because of doubts about the accuracy and fairnes of capital punishment.

The article notes that New Jersey recently established a moratorium on executions and New York opted not to restore its death penalty.  A growing number of jurisdictions have temporarily halted executions due to ongoing concerns about the constitutionality of lethal injection.  "What's happening is reflective of a nation seemingly at odds with itself. A recent Gallup Poll shows that support for executions, though down from its peak, is still 64 percent. But it is also clear that many, including prosecutors and judges, are growing increasingly uneasy about imposing death -- agonizing not only over how and whom to kill but over whether those facing execution have a fair shot at proving their innocence. Courts with growing frequency are choosing life in prison as an alternative," the article states.

The article notes that studies by the American Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union have revealed that defedants' odds of receiving a death sentence depend more on their race, the quality of their legal representation, and where they are charged than on the specific facts of the case. In addition, the United States is finding itself among a shrinking list of nations around the world that continue to practice capital punishment.

(U.S. News & World Report, May 8, 2006).  Read DPIC's 2005 Year End Report. See Sentencing, Life Without Parole, Innocence, Public Opinion, International Death Penalty, and Recent Legislative Developments.