Death penalty lowest since 1991

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Death penalty lowest since 1991.

TALLAHASSEE — Although Florida saw a drop in 2015 in both the number of death-row inmates executed and the number of criminals sentenced to death, findings from a national non-profit research organization show the Sunshine State continues to be an “outlier” in its administration of capital punishment.

Use of the death penalty was reduced to just six states this year, and those states carried out the fewest number of executions in a single year since 1991, according to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center. This year, Pennsylvania’s governor has declared a moratorium on executions, Connecticut’s Supreme Court has determined the punishment to be unconstitutional and the Nebraska Legislature repealed that state’s death penalty law — although voters will formally decide the statute’s future in a referendum next year. Meanwhile 49 death sentences were imposed by 14 states and the federal government this year, down from 73 imposed in 2014, according to the report released Wednesday.

Additionally, 49 criminal defendants received death sentences this year, a decline of about a third from 2014 and the lowest it has been since the early 1970s, The Associated Press reports. In addition, shortages in the drugs used for lethal injections have led several states to impose temporary moratoriums until they obtain reliable supplies. A Supreme Court decision in June let Oklahoma go forward with the execution despite the planned use of the chemical midazolam, a sedative that Glossip’s attorneys argued is ineffective at preventing a person from feeling pain, in its three-drug lethal injection cocktail. The numbers reflect a steady decline in death sentences over the past 15 years and a broad shift in public attitudes that has made capital punishment increasingly rare, said Robert Dunham, the group’s executive director.

While capital punishment remains legal in 31 states, only six states accounted for all the executions this year — Florida, Missouri, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. Gross case. “At the very least, the Court should call for full briefing on the basic question.” Oklahoma officials later halted Glossip’s execution just hours before he was set to be put to death after a mix-up in the three-drug cocktail was discovered. A lethal injection drug shortage persisted into 2015 resulting in several states, including Ohio and Nebraska, halting executions for the foreseeable future. Those defendants included two in Colorado — James Holmes, who killed 12 people and wounded 70 others at an Aurora movie theatre in July 2012, and Dexter Lewis, who was convicted of stabbing five people to death in a Denver bar in October 2012. Dunham said the controversy over lethal injection drugs “had some effect” in yielding fewer executions nationwide in 2015, but “it does not explain the dramatic long-term drop in executions, new death sentences and public opinion.” While most states, including Texas, have executed fewer inmates over time, Florida saw an uptick in 2013 and 2014 — with seven and eight executions in those years, respectively — largely because of Gov.

In Arkansas, a judge put a stop to executing eight inmates during a legal dispute over the state’s ability to keep secret the names of manufacturers and sellers supplying the state with lethal drugs. Oklahoma also stopped its executions until at least midway through 2016 while investigators look into two botched lethal injections and a third that was stopped practically last minute because the wrong drug was delivered.

Correll’s execution — for brutally stabbing four people, including his 5-year-old daughter — was the 22nd to take place in the death chamber at Florida State Prison since Scott took office in 2011. To avoid problems in obtaining drugs, some states passed legislation this year allowing other forms of execution, including Utah, which adopted a law to use firing squads if lethal injection is eventually declared unconstitutional. The report said six people on death rows around the country were exonerated this year, including Willie Manning, a black man who had been convicted of murdering two white women in Mississippi.

Although nearly half of all murder victims in the nation are black, only six of 28 people executed this year had killed an African-American, the survey found. The first — Oscar Ray Bolin, Jr., convicted of three murders in the Tampa Bay area in 1986 — is slated for Jan. 7, but Bolin’s attorneys are seeking a stay from the Florida Supreme Court. Florida is the only state in which a jury can recommend a death sentence by a bare majority of seven of 12 jurors without also having to unanimously agree on aggravating circumstances to justify the ultimate punishment. As Florida becomes more obviously an outlier, its practices will face increased scrutiny.” Legislation has been filed for the 2016 session to require unanimous jury recommendations in Florida, but Republican lawmakers don’t appear eager to take up the bills.

If the court deems Florida’s practices unconstitutional, the decision has the potential to throw an unknown number of cases into upheaval — a figure death penalty experts, like Dunham, are still attempting to quantify.

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