Death Penalty Sentences And Executions Down According To ReportRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Dec 14 2018 12:15 PM
New death sentences and executions remained near historic lows in 2018 and a twentieth state abolished capital punishment, as public opinion polls, election results, legislative actions, and court decisions all reflected the continuing erosion of the death penalty across the country.
But even as death row decreased in size for the eighteenth consecutive year and the number of prisoners facing active death sentences reached a 25-year low, the death penalty remained arbitrary where it was applied.
Rather than reserving executions and death sentences for the worst of the worst crimes and offenders, capital punishment was instead disproportionately meted out in 2018 in cases involving the most vulnerable defendants and prisoners and the least reliable judicial process.
The 25 executions carried out in 2018 marked the fourth consecutive year with fewer than 30 executions–something that had not occurred in the United States since 1988-1991. More than half (13) of the year’s executions took place in Texas. The other states carried out fewer executions than in any year since 1991, when only nine executions were conducted outside of Texas.
The prolonged decline in new death sentences in the United States reached new historic lows in 2018. The anticipated 421 new death sentences imposed this year will make 2018 the fourth straight year with fewer than 50 new death sentences.
Prior to 2015, that had happened only once since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the nation’s death penalty statutes in Furman v. Georgia in 1972.
In 1973, with thirteen states having reauthorized capital punishment, 42 death sentences also were imposed. Death sentences have declined by half in the last four years compared to the previous four years. Those years also produced the fewest new death sentences of any four-year period in the modern history of U.S. capital punishment.
Fewer new death sentences were imposed in the past decade than in the decade leading up to Furman, and the death sentences imposed this year were more than 85% below the peak of more than 300 per year in the mid 1990s.
For the first time in more than 25 years, the number of prisoners facing active death sentences in the United States fell below 2,500 in 2018. Death row in the U.S. has decreased in size every year since 2001, even as the number of executions remains near a generational low.
Fueling the decline, the combination of court decisions reversing convictions or death sentences, deaths from non-execution causes, and exonerations now consistently outpaces the number of new death sentences imposed.