Study: Death Penalty Use Reaches New Low (Still Not Low Enough)
According to a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center, death sentences have dropped 75 percent since 1996. The findings represent a positive shift in attitude, but the reality of capitol punishment is still gruesome. According to the Center, it is the first year less than 100 Americans were sentenced to death since 1976, when the Supreme Court reintroduced the death penalty after banning it for four years. Through mid-December of 2011, 78 people were sentenced to death, compared to 112 in 2010.
“This is a historic drop in death sentences. It’s indicative of a mood around the country that the death penalty has risks, flaws and needs to be reexamined,” said Richard Dieter, the executive director of the center and author of the report.
The center attributed some growing opposition to the death penalty to high-profile executions. The case of Troy Davis, who was was executed in September despite great doubts surrounding his guilt, drew international attention and outrage, and many began to refer to his case as a 'legal lynching.'
In October, the Gallup Poll reported the lowest level of support and highest level of opposition to capital punishment in nearly 40 years. According to the poll, 61 percent of participants supported the death penalty for a person convicted of murder, down from 80 percent in 1994.