Death Row Sentences Drop to Lowest Level Since 1976

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has released a new report on the death penalty.

The number of people sentenced to death last year fell to the lowest level since the Supreme Court reinstated the penalty in 1976.

There were 125 people sent to death row in 2004, down from 144 the previous year and the sixth consecutive annual decline, according to figures compiled by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. In 1998, 300 people received death sentences.

According to a lawyer for the group, one of the reasons for the decline is the increasing number of DNA exonerations. People now realize mistakes are made, and death is permanent. Others cite Supreme Court decisions banning the death penalty for certain offenders:

The high court has issued a series of decisions narrowing the death penalty, putting a stop to the execution of juveniles, the insane and the mentally retarded. There also are more jurisdictions where jurors are given options other than death, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

"Juries are being given a choice of life without parole that they didn't have in the early '90s," he said. Dieter also said increased public attention has led to better legal representation for defendants who could face the death penalty.

The article also has some stats on Texecutions, pre and post-Bush:

As governor of Texas, a state that executes more inmates than any other, Bush commuted one death sentence and allowed 152 executions. Texas sent the most people to death row last year - 23, followed by California, which sent 11 and Florida and Alabama, which each sent 8.

This is very good news, particularly when considered in light of this recent study based on a 2003 Gallup poll showing that support for the death penalty is down.

The study notes that in 1986, 61 percent of Americans held the view that the death penalty acts as a deterrent, but that has since dropped to 33 percent.....fewer Americans support the death penalty as a result of the growing number of inncents on death row. A whopping 75% believe that an innocent person has been executed in the last five years.

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    Re: Death Row Sentences Drop to Lowest Level Since (none / 0) (#1)
    by Johnny on Mon Apr 25, 2005 at 10:22:19 PM EST
    Does this indicate a decline in actual capital offenses, or actually sentencing less people? nah.... This is proof that vengeance killing works as a deterrent!

    Well if this is true it is definately good news, this way we won't see so many miscarriage of justice cases anymore. My biggest problem with the DP is that there has been way to many cases lately where there has been proven that the prisoner has been falsely accused and convicted, and in cases with the DP there has to be proven BEYOND ANY DOUBT that the accused is guilty, not bunches of circumstantial evidence presented by overanxious prosucutors seeking a political career. For more info and stats on DP go here: http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/death.htm

    No, Johnny, it's not...It's proof that people are waking up and understanding that death is an irreversible punishment. They've seen that being wrong is a matter of life or death, and they're thinking real hard before imposing death sentences. And according to an article that I read on CNN.com, on the same topic, the mass commutations in Illinois a while back had much more to do with it than any sort of alleged deterrent effect.

    Re: Death Row Sentences Drop to Lowest Level Since (none / 0) (#4)
    by Johnny on Tue Apr 26, 2005 at 08:51:01 PM EST
    I agree Claxton. I was trying to sound all wrong-wingy. However, I take issue with cookiemonster who says we won't see as many miscarriages of justice. Innocent is innocent, locked up when innocent is still a miscarriage of justice. Murdering them when innocent is a crime.