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Report: Death penalty continues to fade in U.S.

Though California voters rejected a ballot measure last month that would’ve abolished the state’s death penalty, a new report shows capital punishment continues to decline nationwide.

2012 executionsThe Death Penalty Information Center’s survey found only nine states carried out executions in 2012 – the fewest number of states to do so in 20 years. More than half of the states (29) now either have no death penalty or have not carried out an execution in five years.

The 43 executions carried out in the United States in 2012 was 56 percent less than the peak in 1999, and equal to last year’s total. The number of new death sentences in 2012 was the second-lowest since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976: 80 people were sentenced to death in 2012, representing a 74 percent decline since the 315 sentences rendered in 1996.

Many death penalty states with histories of high use had no new death sentences or no executions in 2012; for example, there were none in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, the latter of which is second only to Texas in total executions since 1976,

“Capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country,” Richard Dieter, DPIC’s executive director and the report’s author, said in a news release. “In 2012, fewer states have the death penalty, fewer carried out executions, and death sentences and executions were clustered in a small number of states. It is very likely that more states will take up the question of death penalty repeal in the years ahead.”

California’s Proposition 34, which would’ve abolished the state’s death penalty and replaced it with life in prison without possibility of parole, won the support of only 48 percent of voters in November’s election. Elsewhere, Connecticut this year became the 17th state to repeal its death penalty.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Bruce R. Peterson Lafayette

    I asked Scott Dyleski, what he thought about the death penalty. He said it is the thinking of “gang bangers”, an eye for an eye. He said more people on death row commit suicide, than the state ever executes. Put them there & let them kill themselves.

  • John W

    “Put them there & let them kill themselves”

    And each other!