Texas sends fewer to death row as capital punishment wanes

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Death sentences in Texas in 2015 hit a four decade low.

Executions in the United States have fallen from a peak 16 years ago to a quarter-century low, reflecting a broad change in public attitudes that has raised the hopes of death-penalty opponents, a report said Wednesday.The number of death penalty sentences issued and executions carried out in the US both dropped to historic lows in 2015, according to an annual report on capital punishment.

The high cost of capital punishment and the option of life in prison without parole has led Texas to issue three death sentences in 2015, the lowest since the U.S. BAnti-death penalty protesters rally outside of John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse during the official sentencing of Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev on June 24, 2015 ©Scott Eisen (Getty/AFP/File) Total executions have fallen by 20 percent since last year, from 35 to 28, the fewest since 1991. As of Dec. 15, 28 inmates had been executed this year, according to The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a nonprofit organization that opposes the death penalty and keeps data on the policy. 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. One factor behind the downward trend is a shortage of the drugs widely used in lethal injections, which pharmaceutical firms, most of them European, have refused to supply for this purpose.

The costs of a death penalty prosecution, including appeals and investigations, can be at least double those of housing an inmate for life and are usually far higher, according to data cited by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit newsgroup that focuses on U.S. criminal justice. The number of executions also declined in 2014, the DPIC found in last year’s study, noting that the manner of prisoner deaths had become more brutal and grotesque.

A lethal injection drug shortage persisted into 2015 resulting in several states, including Ohio and Nebraska, halting executions for the foreseeable future. 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. Capital punishment is the law of the land in 31 states, yet just six exercised the policy this year — Florida, Missouri, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia.

In March, the top American trade group for compounding pharmacists urged its members to stop working with the drugs that are used to carry out executions. Although Oklahoma issued an indefinite stay on lethal injections, it became the first US state to legalize the use of nitrogen gas to execute death row inmates if lethal injection drugs are not available.

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