The use of the death penalty in Texas and in the United States is on the decline, due largely to the large number of people jurors have seen being released from prison after serving long terms for crimes they did not commit, a new report released today to 1200 WOAI news confirms.
The Death Penalty Information Center says the 39 people executed in the United States in 2013 is one of the lowest numbers in twenty years, and the projected 80 people who will be sentenced to death in 2013 is among the lowest since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1975.
The 80 people sentenced to death in 2013 compares with 315 death sentences handed out by juries in 1994 and 1996, at the height of the violent crime wave which was fueled by demographics and crack cocaine.
Analysts cite two main reasons why the use of the death penalty in the United States is flagging. One is the fact that several states, including Texas, have recently exonerated individuals who have served long terms in prison for crimes they did not commit.
"The realization that mistakes can be made," the Center's Richard Dieter told 1200 WOAI news. "That innocent people have been freed, some from death row, some just from prison."
Dieter says this has prompted juries to favor life without parole, which was just introduced in Texas in 2005, as an alternative to the death penalty.
"If given a less risky sentence, a sentence that still is punishment and assures that the person will not get out, that is what they are choosing," he said.
Dieter also cited the increasing unwillingness of pharmaceutical companies to allow their drugs to be used in executions as a reason why the total number of death sentences carried out has been declining.
"If the death penalty was a great thing, people would be proud to be part of it," Dieter said.
He also cites the fact that Maryland in 2013 became the sixth state in six years to abolish capital punishment.