NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 5, 2007

Death sentences fell to 114 or fewer in 2006, the lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated 30 years ago, reports USA Today.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center:

  • Death sentences fell in 2006 to 114 or fewer, down from 128 in 2005.
  • It is also lower than the 137 sentences the year after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, and down sharply from the high of 317 in 1996.
  • A total of 53 executions were carried out in 2006, down from 60 in 2005; executions over the past three decades peaked at 98 in 1999.

Among the many causes given by prosecutors, lawyers and death penalty critics: the passage of more state laws that allow juries to impose life without parole; an overall drop in violent crime; and a reluctance among some authorities to pursue the death penalty because of the high costs of prosecuting a capital case.

But above all, many said, is the possibility of a mistake, made dramatically clear in recent years.  Since the death penalty was reinstated, 123 people have been freed from death row after significant questions were raised about their convictions -- 14 of them through DNA testing, according to the Center.

Source: Robert Tanner, "U.S. death sentences drop to 30-year low," USA Today, January 5, 2007.

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