Executions, Death Sentences Down Significantly in 2013

Thursday, 19 Dec 2013 11:33 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The number of executions in the United States dropped significantly in 2013, and the number of death penalties issued this year is at a near-historic low, according to new figures.

In its latest annual report, the Death Penalty Information Center said that executions declined by about 10 percent compared to 2012, and by a total of 60 percent since 1999.

"Twenty years ago, use of the death penalty was increasing. Now it is declining by almost every measure," said Richard Dieter, DPIC's executive director and the author of the report.

"The recurrent problems of the death penalty have made its application rare, isolated, and often delayed for decades. More states will likely reconsider the wisdom of retaining this expensive and ineffectual practice."

There were 39 executions in the United States in 2013, marking only the second time in 19 years that there were less than 40. Texas and Florida were responsible for 59 percent of the executions, with 16 and seven respectively.

The inability of states to obtain lethal injection drugs was one of the reasons for the drop in executions, according to the group.

There were 80 new death sentences issued throughout the country in 2013, the second record low since 1973. California issued the most, with 24, followed by Florida which issued 15, and Texas, which called for nine.

Several major death penalty states, including Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana, imposed no death sentences this year, according to the organization.

Meanwhile, the number of states where the death penalty is legal dropped to 32 this year when Maryland became the sixth state in six years to abolish capital punishment.

Public support for capital punishment is at a 40-year low, according to the most recent Gallup poll. Sixty percent of those surveyed say they support it, 35 percent are opposed, and 5 percent say they have no opinion on the issue.

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