Seventy-eight capital punishment verdicts were handed down this year compared to 112 last year, according to the National Law Journal. Executions also decreased from 46 in 2010 to 43 in 2011.
There were several factors that contributed to this year's drop, according to the report. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn passed legislation to repeal the death penalty; Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber decided to order no more executions during his term; there was a drop in crime; and finally, public distrust of the system grew after Troy Davis of Georgia was executed despite strong doubts of his guilt were made known.
Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, disagreed. He told the National Law Journal the decline in death penalty sentences isn't due to loss of confidence in the system, but rather to the drop in the murder rate.
Scheidegger said the past decade's Gallup polls have shown support for the death penalty remaining steady and high with the exception of this year's poll after the Troy Davis execution.
According to this year's Gallup poll, 61 percent of Americans approved of the death penalty compared with 64 percent in 2010. This is the lowest the approval rating has been since 1972, when 49 percent of those polled approved of the penalty.
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