The Death Penalty Is Dying

Why American juries are less likely today to condemn another to die.

The death penalty is dying.  Fewer death sentences are being pronounced and fewer are being pursued, as prosecutors find America’s juries increasingly uncomfortable with the failures in the system.

Seeing that 130 innocent people have suffered being charged, tried, convicted and sentenced to death in the last 35 years only to be exonerated and freed ultimately, jurors are less likely today to condemn another to die.

In 2000, Governor George Ryan of Illinois found that his state had executed 12 people in the 23 years since their death penalty was reinstated, but in the same period had exonerated 13.  Stunned, Ryan, a self-described death-penalty-supporting conservative, declared a moratorium on state killing and established a bipartisan commission to examine and fix the system.

Finding his legislature unwilling to follow the commission’s recommendations by the end of his term, Ryan studied each case and shocked the political world by releasing four additional men he found innocent and commuting the remaining 167 death row prisoners to life without parole.

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