I’m torn on this issue, because I think the Death Penalty is a tough topic to nail down. I don’t dissaprove on a moral basis. I think that the state has the right to put people to death for several crimes (murder, rape, treason to name a few.) I don’t however, thinks it a deterrent against those crimes. If someone has resolved to commit one of these crimes, I don’t believe the threat of Death Penalty will not stop them. It’s also become such a convoluted process, it takes on average around 15 years from conviction to the execution, that it’s almost not worth the effort and the resources of the state.
BBC News – Fewer death sentences were handed down in the US this year than at any time in the last four decades, a study finds.
Only 30 such penalties were imposed in 2016, the lowest since the US Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976 after a four-year hiatus.Five states, Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Florida and Missouri, carried out 20 executions.It continues a 20-year downward trend in US capital punishment, says the Death Penalty Information Center.
The new DPIC report showed that not only have executions slowed or even halted in the vast majority of states, but juries and judges are sentencing fewer people to death.
“This year, death sentences will be lower than at any other time in the modern history of the American death penalty,” says Robert Dunham, executive director of the DPIC and lead author of the study. “That, I think, is a big story.”
After the US death penalty was reinstated 40 years ago, the number of death sentences and executions began steadily rising. In 1977, 137 death sentences were handed down.
The trend peaked in the 1990s, with 98 executions in 1999 and 315 new death sentences in 1996.Then the downward trend began.
In 2016, only 30 new death sentences were handed down, and 20 executions took place. That was the fewest number of executions since 1991. Of the five states that put inmates to death in 2016, Georgia led the way with nine executions, followed by Texas with seven, Alabama with two, and both Florida and Missouri executed one person.
New death sentences are down 37% from 2015, according to the report, and fewer death sentences were imposed in 2016 “than in any other year since the Supreme Court declared US death penalty statutes unconstitutional in… 1972”.
Mr Dunham points out that the low number of new death sentences was notable as well. Georgia, for example, sentenced no-one to death in 2016. “Texas had four new death sentences, which is very low for the state,” he said. “Dallas and Harris counties, which is where Houston and Dallas are, imposed no new death sentences for only the second time since the 1980s.”
The halt of executions in some states can be explained by the difficulty procuring legally acceptable drugs needed for lethal injections in the US. Many pharmaceutical companies refuse to provide them, and the European Union banned the export of the drugs to the US in 2011. Some states have resorted to clandestine deals with compounding pharmacies or different drug cocktails, and a series of botched executions in recent years has raised legal and ethical concerns about these practices.
Legal challenges that can take decades to resolve and exonerations around the country have also slowed executions.
So far there have been 156 men and women exonerated from death row in the US.
“Lawyers cost an awful lot more than prison guards, and there is just enough ambivalence for state killing as a criminal punishment to make the due process standard higher than for other kinds of punishment,” says Frank Zimring, a death penalty expert and professor at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law.
“The combination of high expense and low assurance has sort of taken the enthusiasm out.”
According to various polls, American opinions are roughly split when it comes to the death penalty.
A Pew Research Center poll shows approval for the death penalty has declined from a high of 80% in the 1990s to only 49% in favour now.
Image Source: wlm.org