The number of death sentences imposed this year dropped to less than 100 for the first time since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, according to a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center. The number of executions carried out also declined, according to the group, which attributes the change to the “discomfort that many Americans have with the death penalty.”
“Whether it’s concerns about unfairness, executing the innocent, the high costs of the death penalty, or the general feeling that the government just can’t get it right, Americans moved further away from capital punishment in 2011,” said Richard Dieter, DPIC’s Executive Director and the report’s author.
According to the report, 78 new death sentences have been handed down so far this year. That is a sharp decrease from 2010, when 117 death sentences were handed down, and a dramatic decrease from 2000, when 224 death sentences were imposed.
There have been 43 executions carried out so far in 2011, compared to 46 in 2010 and 85 in 2000, according to the report. Nearly 3 out of 4 executions took place in the South, with Texas leading all states with 13.
Dieter also noted that several states, including Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey and New York, have abandoned capital punishment in recent years, and other states including California, Connecticut, Maryland and Oregon are exploring the possibility of also ending executions.