The use of capital punishment in the US is at a 20-year low, according to a eport [text, PDF] by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) [advocacy website] Wednesday. Specifically, the report found that while 31 states currently allow the death penalty, only five such states held executions in 2016. Of these 31 states, nearly 80 percent of all executions occurred in either Georgia (9) or Texas (7). DPIC’s executive director Robert Dunham said “America is in the midst of a major climate change concerning capital punishment.” While bans on drugs used for lethal injections by European companies and Pfizer, an American pharmaceutical company, have likely contributed to this trend, total abolition of capital punishment will likely depend [RT article] upon the composition of the Supreme Court.
Capital punishment [JURIST op-ed] remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. In November the legal status of the death penalty was upheld [JURIST report] by state referendum in Oklahoma, Nebraska and California. In September executions in Oklahoma were put on a two-year hiatus so Oklahoma can reevaluate its lethal injection procedures [JURIST report] following a botched execution and several drug mix-ups in the past two years. In May the US Supreme Court upheld a stay [JURIST report] of execution for Alabama inmate Vernon Madison. A few days before that a Miami judge ruled [JURIST report] that Florida’s revamped death penalty law is unconstitutional because it does not require a unanimous agreement among jurors to approve executions. In April Virginia’s General Assembly voted [JURIST report] to keep secret the identities of suppliers of lethal injection drugs.