Death Penalty In Decline

By: Cameron Sturdevant

Nationwide, states are executing less people -- especially those states that have executed the most people in the last decade.

Texas, for example, is supposed to execute 18 by the end of the year -- which is less than half of the 40 executed there in 2000.

Among the 17 states that had more than three executions last year, only Oklahoma (11 to 16) and Missouri (5 to 7) are set to increase the number of executions.

All other states show a stunning decline in the number of executions: Virginia from eight to one; Florida six to one; Indiana nine to two; Utah six to possibly one, Nevada nine to one; and Mississippi, Maryland, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, none.

The slowdown isn't from a lack of enthusiasm on the part of eager prosecutors or execution-happy George Bush. Capital conviction rates are about thae same as last year. And President Bush -- having signed more than 150 death warrants as governor of Texas -- brought his simple-minded idea of justice to the national level by overseeing the first federal executions in more than 30 years.

Although no studies have been conducted to show what's behind the slowing rate of executions in the U.S., anti-death penalty activists can take a guess.

More and more people are turning away from the death penalty, as indicted by recent polls showing support for the death penalty at its lowest in more than 20 years. A rethinking of the use of capital punishment is underway in our society. Moratorium initiatives are underway in 13 states, and abolition legislation has been introduced in 10 states.