For Immediate Release
Executions Drop Below 40 for Only Second Time since 1994
Death Sentences Remain Near Record Lows, Number of States Repealing Capital Punishment Grows, and Public Support for Death Penalty at 40-Year Low
WASHINGTON - With 39 executions in 2013, this year marks only the second time in nearly two decades that the United States executed less than 40 people, according to a report released today by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). One of the reasons for fewer executions in 2013 was states’ inability to obtain lethal injection drugs.
Executions declined about 10% compared to 2012 - from 43 last year to 39 this year - and by 60% since 1999. There were 80 new death sentences in 2013, about the same as last year (77), which was the lowest number since 1973. Death sentences have declined by 75% from 1996, when there were 315.
“Twenty years ago, use of the death penalty was increasing. Now it is declining by almost every measure,” said Richard Dieter, DPIC’s Executive Director and the author of the report. “The recurrent problems of the death penalty have made its application rare, isolated, and often delayed for decades. More states will likely reconsider the wisdom of retaining this expensive and ineffectual practice.”
In line with the death penalty’s decline, the number of states with capital punishment laws dropped to 32 this year, as Maryland became the 18th abolition state. Six states in six years have abandoned capital punishment: Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico.
In 2013, public support for the death penalty as measured in the annual Gallup poll declined to 60%, its lowest level in 40 years. In Boston, a strong majority (57%) of residents supported a sentence of life without parole for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, while only 33% of respondents supported a death sentence.
State-by-state data illustrate the decline in death penalty use this year:
- Two states, Texas and Florida, were responsible for the majority (59%) of executions nationwide. Texas had 16 executions and Florida had 7.
- For the sixth year in a row, Texas had less than 10 death sentences, a stark contrast from 1999, when it recorded 48.
- Prominent death penalty states, including South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana, had no death sentences in 2013.
- California had about 30% of the country’s death sentences, though the state has not carried out an execution in seven years.
In October, DPIC released an analysis of the death penalty by county that showed only two percent of the counties in the U.S. have been responsible for the majority of cases leading to executions since 1976. Eighty-five percent of the counties in the U.S. have not had a single case resulting in an execution in more than 45 years. (deathpenaltyinfo.org/twopercent)