US Capital Punishment Lowest in Last Four Decades

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There has been fewer death sentences handed out in the US this year than any time in the last 40 years, according to a new Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) report.

According to the DPIC, executions have slowed down or even stopped, and many juries and judges are also slowing down the rulings of the death penalties across the country.

In five states, Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Florida and Missouri, carried out 20 executions, and it continues to be a 20-year downward trend.

Robert Dunham, the executive director of the DPIC and lead author of the study said: “This year, death sentences will be lower than at any other time in the modern history of the American death penalty. That, I think, is a big story.”

Accounts in 2016

There have been only 30 death penalties handed out in 2016 in the US, marking the lowest capital punishment rate since the US Supreme court reinstated the law in 1976. Since its reinstatement, it was slowly rising.

In just 1977, 137 death sentences were given. This started peaking in the 1990s, where in 1999, 98 executions were carried out and in 1996, 315 were carried out.

The downward trend started 20 years ago, and 2016 marks the all-time low in four decades.  According to Dunham: “Texas had four new death sentences, which is very low for the state.”

“Dallas and Harris counties, which is where Houston and Dallas are, imposed no new death sentences for only the second time since the 1980s.”

The study points out that new death sentences are down 37% from 2015, according to the report, and fewer death sentences were handed out “than in any other year since the Supreme Court declared US death penalty statutes unconstitutional in… 1972”.

There have also been 156 men and women that were exonerated from the death sentence. So far there have been 156 men and women exonerated from death row in the US.

“Lawyers cost an awful lot more than prison guards, and there is just enough ambivalence for state killing as a criminal punishment to make the due process standard higher than for other kinds of punishment,” according to Frank Zimring, a death penalty expert and University of California-Berkeley School of Law professor. “The combination of high expense and low assurance has sort of taken the enthusiasm out.”



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