Friday, December 19, 2014

Executions Declining in the U.S.

"When almost all of the executions are in so few of the states, you have to question the relevancy of the death penalty in the country whole."  -- Richard Dieter, Death Penalty Information Center.

A new report from the center (story here) tells us that the number of executions in the U.S. is dramatically reduced with just seven states carrying out state-sponsored murder during the past year and three of those--Texas, Missouri and Florida, all bright Republican red--responsible for 85 percent of them. That's the lowest number in 40 years.

In 1999 there were 98 U.S. executions and in 2014, there were 35.

A Pew Research Center poll shows 55 percent of Americans favoring the death penalty (when life in prison without parole was not presented as an alternative), down from 67 percent in 2011. Opposition was 37 percent. When life without parole is figured in, most Americans oppose execution. Republicans, the "pro life party," heavily favors public killing.

The story reports, "Exonerations of people who were wrongly convicted, the availability of prison terms of life without parole and the cost of capital trials and the appeals process also are factors in the persistent decline." There were seven exonerations and some high-profile cases where deaths were so gruesome that even hardcore death penalty advocates flinched.

California has 745 prisoners with death sentences hanging over their heads, by far the most of any state, including Texas where the death penalty seems to rank only behind football as public entertainment. California, despite the sentences, has killed three people since 2006 and 13 in the past 35 years. The land of fruits and nuts seems to have little stomach for sanctioned murder.

Virginia first killed a citizen by execution in 1608 and has carried out a national-high of more than 1,380 since, according to Wikipedia. In February, 1951, Virginia mass murdered five black convicts, four of them for allegedly raping and killing a white woman (the Martinsville Seven) and another in an unrelated murder. Two more of the rape convicts were killed later. The last execution for rape in Virginia took place in 1961.

Virginia killed eight inmates between 2009 and 2013 and none in 2014. It killed one in 2013.

The least amount of time between conviction and execution occurred in Texas where a woman was killed after eight years and the longest took place in Florida, as well, where a 62-year-old man was murdered after waiting 30 years.

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