US execution rates continue to drop during 2010

US execution rates continue to drop during 2010

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[JURIST] The number of executions that took place in the US in 2010 was down 12 percent from 2009, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) [advocacy website] annual report [text, PDF; press release, PDF] released Tuesday. There were 46 executions in 2010, compared to 52 in 2009. The report also notes that the number of new death sentences for 2010 is projected to be 114—close to 2009’s figure of 112, which represented the lowest number of new death sentences since the US Supreme Court [official website] reinstated the death penalty in 1976. DPIC attributes the decrease in executions to several factors, including controversy over lethal injections [JURIST news archive] and evidence of mistakes in Texas:

The carrying out of executions remained controversial and cumbersome in 2010. Over 40 execution dates were stayed, many because of continuing problems with the process of lethal injections. … Evidence of critical errors made in cases where an execution has occurred continued to mount in Texas. … Such examples have caused deep concerns about the death penalty not only in Texas but across the country.

The report also states that a recent poll shows 61 percent of Americans would choose various alternative sentences over the death penalty as the proper punishment for murder.

The trends are similar to those observed in the DPIC’s 2009 report [text, PDF; JURIST report]. While the report did show that the number of executions increased from 37 in 2008 [text, PDF; JURIST report], it attributed those numbers to a backlog of cases resulting from a de facto moratorium [JURIST report] on the death penalty. Executions resumed in the US in April 2008 after the Supreme Court lifted an effective ban on the death penalty by upholding the constitutionality of lethal injection [JURIST report].