Executions in U.S. fall to lowest numbers in decades

WASHINGTON - The number of people executed in the United States this year dropped to the lowest level since 1991, as states impose fewer death sentences and defendants in capital cases get access to better legal help.

See Full Article

The Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit organization that opposes capital punishment and tracks the issue, said 28 inmates were executed as of Dec. 15, down from 35 last year and far below the peak of 98 in 1999.

Another 49 criminal defendants received death sentences this year, down 33 per cent from 2014 and the lowest number since the early 1970s.

The numbers reflect a steady decline in death sentences over the past 15 years and a broad shift in public attitudes that has made capital punishment increasingly rare, said Robert Dunham, the group's executive director.

"What we're seeing is the cumulative effect of falling public support for the death penalty," Dunham said.

About 61 per cent of Americans support the death penalty in murder cases, according to a Gallup poll in October, but that share has inched downward while opposition has crept up.

While capital punishment remains legal in 31 states, only six states accounted for all the executions this year - Florida, Missouri, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. That's the fewest since 1988.

Texas led the way with 13 executions, followed by six in Missouri and five in Georgia. But Texas imposed only two new death sentences this year, while Georgia and Virginia had no new death row inmates.

The total number of death row inmates nationwide is now below 3,000 for first time since 1995.

A shortage of lethal injection drugs has meant de facto freezes in several states, including Ohio and Nebraska. In Arkansas, a judge halted executions of eight inmates amid a legal fight over whether the state can keep secret the identity of manufacturers and sellers of its execution drugs.

Oklahoma recently said it was halting all executions until well into next year while officials investigate two botched lethal injections and a third that was called off because the wrong drug was delivered.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma's use of a controversial sedative in lethal injection executions, but two justices said for the first time they think it's "highly likely" the death penalty itself is unconstitutional.

Death penalty opponents are hoping the high court eventually will abolish the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment which is banned under the U.S. Constitution. Even Justice Antonin Scalia, a longtime defender of capital punishment, told an audience this year that he wouldn't be surprised if the court invalidates the death penalty.

Another factor in the recent decline is improved legal representation for defendants. Georgia, Texas and Virginia have all created statewide capital-case defender programs staffed by attorneys who specialize in those cases.

Since 1973, more than 150 people who had been sentenced to death have been exonerated after presenting evidence of their innocence. Six death row prisoners were cleared of all charges this year.

"There is a very significant relationship between providing defendants good representation and the outcomes of capital cases," Dunham said.

Other factors cited in the decline of executions include the high cost of death penalty prosecutions and states such as Texas and Virginia now instructing juries that they have the option of sentencing capital defendants to life without the possibility of parole.


Latest Canada & World News

  • NYC boy, 3, dies, mother's boyfriend facing assault charges

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK - A 3-year-old boy who was found unconscious inside his New York City home last week has died. Police say Jaden Jordan died Sunday night at a hospital. Officers responding to a 911 call at a Brooklyn apartment last Monday found the boy. Source
  • Japanese leader Abe to visit Pearl Harbor with Obama

    World News CBC News
    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday he will visit Pearl Harbor with U.S. President Barack Obama at the end of this month, becoming the first leader of his country to go to the U.S. Naval base in Hawaii that Japan attacked in 1941, propelling the United States into World War II. Source
  • Fake U.S. embassy in Ghana shut down after 'about a decade'

    World News CTV News
    ACCRA, Ghana -- The U.S. State Department says it has shut down a fake embassy in Ghana's capital that operated for "about a decade" issuing counterfeit and fraudulently obtained visas to West Africans. A statement says authorities recovered 150 passports from 10 countries and visas from the U.S. Source
  • Suspect arrested in Montreal-area double shooting

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL - A 21-year old man is in custody in connection with a double shooting in the Montreal area. Police say a 49-year-old woman was shot late Sunday night in a gas station parking lot in the Pointe-Aux-Trembles neighbourhood. Source
  • Defence begins in trial for Calgary mom who treated son with holistic remedies

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY -- The defence is to begin arguing its case today at the trial of a woman who treated her son with dandelion tea and oil of oregano before he died of a strep infection. Source
  • Closing arguments to begin in trial for trio connected to B.C. polygamous sect

    Canada News CTV News
    CRANBROOK, B.C. - Closing arguments are scheduled to begin today in the trial of three people connected to a British Columbia polygamous community. Brandon Blackmore, Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore and James Oler are charged with taking girls into the United States for a sexual purpose. Source
  • Trump taps former campaign rival Carson as housing secretary

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, moving to complete formation of his Cabinet and decide other key administration posts, chose former campaign rival Ben Carson on Monday to be secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Source
  • Quebecers head to the polls as four ridings hold provincial byelections

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL - Voters in four Quebec ridings will head to the polls today in what will be Jean-Francois Lisee's first major test as Parti Quebecois leader. One of the ridings up for grabs will be Saint-Jerome, which has been vacant since former PQ leader Pierre Karl Peladeau resigned abruptly in May, citing family reasons. Source
  • Trump taps former rival Carson as housing secretary

    World News CBC News
    U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has chosen former campaign rival Ben Carson to become secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Trump's decision, announced early Monday by his transition office, comes as the real estate mogul continues a series of interviews, meetings with aides and other deliberations aimed at forming his administration. Source
  • Iran nuclear deal: China, Iran make not-so-veiled comments to Trump

    World News CBC News
    The foreign ministers of China and Iran on Monday urged governments not to violate the deal that limits Iran's nuclear activity in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, in remarks apparently directed at President-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration. Source