Sunday, December 21, 2014

U.S. Executions, Death Sentences Reach Multiyear Lows

In 2014, 35 People Were Put to Death—The Fewest Since 1994, Report Says
The use of the death penalty in the U.S. is dwindling, with the number of executions and death sentences reaching multiyear lows in 2014.
In 2014, 35 people were executed—the fewest since 1994, according to the latest annual report by the Death Penalty Information Center. Executions took place in only seven states.
Meanwhile, 72 people were sentenced to death this year, the lowest number since 1974, the report said.
The figures represent the continuance of a downward trend that reaches back to the 1990s.
In 1999, the high-water mark for executions, 98 inmates were put to death.
In each of the years from 1994 to 1996, more than 300 people were sent to death row. Both numbers largely have been shrinking for the last 15 years.
“We’ve been moving away from the death penalty for many years now, and that trend is likely to continue,” said Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
The organization is largely opposed to the death penalty, citing a lack of transparency with how it is carried out, the increasingly fraught methods of execution and its sometimes haphazard application. The group’s annual statistical reports on the death penalty generally are viewed as reliable by people on both sides off the debate.
The slide in death sentences began alongside a rise in the use of DNA evidence in the 1990s, legal experts said. “For the first time, you had this airtight, scientific evidence cutting down convictions,” said Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University and death-penalty expert.
Also affecting the number of death sentences: the rise in “life-without-parole” penalties, which have been adopted by more than half the states since the 1990s.
Such sentences have presented prosecutors and juries with a viable alternative to the death penalty for particularly violent or heinous crimes.
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