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US sees drop in executions, death sentences in 2008: report

[JURIST] Executions in the US are at a 14-year low and the number of death sentences has dropped 60 percent since the 1990s, according to a report [text, PDF; DPIC press release, PDF] released Thursday by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) [advocacy website], a non-profit organization that opposes the death penalty. There were 37 executions in 2008 with no more expected this year, down from 42 in 2007 and 98 in 1999. Ninety-five percent of those executions took place in the South, with Texas executing 18 inmates. Only 111 inmates were sentenced to death in 2008, down from 115 in 2007 and 284 in 1999. Public support of the death penalty has also dropped to 64 percent, down from 69 percent in 2007 and 71 percent in 1999. The report also pointed to problems illustrated by stays of executions and exonerations as well as the high costs associated with keeping inmates on death row.

Executions resumed in the US in April after the US Supreme Court lifted an effective moratorium by upholding lethal injection [JURIST reports]. The first execution following the ruling [JURIST report] was conducted in Georgia in May. New Jersey abolished the death penalty [JURIST report] last year. Last December, the UN General Assembly passed [JURIST report] a non-binding worldwide death penalty moratorium, calling for a suspension, rather than a complete abolition, of capital punishment.

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