Death Sentences Dropped, but Executions Rose in ’09
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, a research organization that opposes capital punishment.
“This entire decade has been marked by a declining use of the death penalty,” said Richard Dieter, the executive director of the group.
It must mean that each year there are fewer people on death row than the year below. But killing them off doesn't seem like the right way to do it. If the use of capital punishment is declining as reflected by the sentences handed down, the incidents of carrying out those sentences should also decline. Hopefully we're heading towards abolition and these guys who are being executed in increasing numbers won't be around to have their sentences changed to life without parole.
The sentencing drop was most striking in Texas, which averaged 34 death sentences a year in the 1990s and had 9 this year. Vic Wisner, a former assistant district attorney in Houston, said a “constant media drumbeat” about suspect convictions and exonerations “has really changed the attitude of jurors.”
Whatever the reason for the sentencing drop in Texas, doesn't the fact that it went from 34 to 9 indicate that some of those 34 got a bad deal? Isn't that a sort of proof in and of itself? If in 2009, the juries decided in 25 or so capital cases that a life sentence was the right punishment, what does that say about the ones who received the death penalty before?
I say the administration of capital punishment is so broken it should be halted immediately.
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