Friday, December 18, 2009

Executions Up, Death Sentences Down in 2009

More death row convicts were executed in the United States this year than last, but juries continue to grow more wary of capital punishment, according to a new report.

Death sentences handed down by judges and juries in 2009 continued a trend of decline for seven years in a row, with 106 projected for the year. That level is down two-thirds from a peak of 328 in 1994, according to the report being released Friday by the Death Penalty Information Center

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As the article explains, the probable explanation for the the increase in the number of executions may be due to a backlog from 2008. Executions were put on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision in Baze & Bowling v. Rees

But the continued reduction in the number of death sentences, coupled with lower public support for the death penalty and the effort to abolish executions in ten states, suggets that progress is being made. Wrongful convictions, extreme cost, continued victimization of the family and friends of the murder victim, and issues of race and social class continue to hound this failed public policy.

States like Idaho are going to have to consider the efficacy of capital punishment. Only one execution in the last 52 years (and that one was voluntary) while most Idaho inmates have left death row because their sentences or convictions were reversed or because of death from natural causes. Is this the best use of scarce dollars? Will ideology continue to trump common sense? 

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