Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gramlich: Death Penalty Summary for 2010

As the end of the year approaches the use of the death penalty for 2010 comes into better focus. With Mississippi failing to carry-out and execution tentatively scheduled for December 29, 2010 and presumably no death penalty trials facing verdict during the holiday week, the numbers are final. John Gramlich a staff writer at provided an accurate picture of capital punishment for 2010 in an article last week.

Excerpts of the article are below:

Officially, 35 states retain the death penalty, but far fewer use it with any regularity, as a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-capital punishment research and advocacy group, makes clear.

In 2010, only seven states — Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia — executed more than one prisoner, the report finds. Of those seven states, Texas was far and away the most active, executing 17 inmates in 2010, compared with eight for Ohio, the second-busiest state. Alabama was third with five executions.

Nationally, 46 prisoners were executed this year, a 12-percent drop from the 52 who were executed last year. Ten years ago, 85 executions took place nationally. Death sentences, too, have seen a sharp decline over the last decade, with 114 people sentenced to die this year, compared with more than twice as many — 234 — in 2000.

The reasons behind the decline in death sentences and executions are a point of debate. According to the Death Penalty Information Center's new report, capital punishment "continued to be mired in conflict in 2010, as states grappled with an ongoing controversy over lethal injections, the high cost of capital punishment, and increasing public sentiment in favor of alternative sentences."

But the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a victims' rights group in Sacramento, California, notes that the number of executions this year — 46 — is the exact average of executions nationally over the last four years, not the sharp decline that the Death Penalty Information Center portrays. The group also says the declining number of death sentences is a reflection not of juries' uneasiness with the death penalty, but simply a decline in murders.

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