Executions and Death Sentences Declined in 2008
It is difficult to be happy that only 37 inmates have been executed this year (with no new executions expected before 2009), the smallest number of executions in 14 years. The controversy over lethal injection resulted in a de facto moratorium on executions for much of the year. The number of executions may increase next year as the killing machine resumes operation.
More encouraging is that only 111 defendants were sentenced to death this year, down from 115 last year. This may be further evidence that the public (at least outside of Texas, which accounted for 26 of the 37 executions) is losing its stomach for state-sanctioned killing. [more ...]
“Revelations of mistakes, cases reversed by DNA testing, all of these things have put a dent in the whole system and caused hesitation,” [Richard Deiter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center] said. “I don’t think what is happening is a moral opposition to the death penalty yet, but there is a greater scrutiny applied to the death penalty that wasn’t there before.”
The bad economy has its upside as prosecutors and the lawmakers who fund them consider whether the cost of death penalty prosecutions is worthwhile.
Mr. Deiter also said that the economic meltdown and budget constraints were dissuading prosecutors from seeking capital trials, which usually cost millions of dollars and take decades to complete.
Those "millions of dollars" are wasted as inmates languish on death row. Death penalty states struggling to cope with budget shortfalls should put an end to death penalty prosecutions and appeals.
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