by Allanah Leahy – EM TV World News
The Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, or DPIC, published a report showing a decline in executions.
The non-profit group’s report, released yesterday, revealed that this year’s number of executions in the United States was the lowest in 24 years.
The 28 executions so far in the USA this year is the lowest number since 1991, but numbers have steadily declined since the 98 recorded in 1999.
While many say the death penalty is a sufficient punishment to match inhumane levels of crime, the Death Penalty Information Center’s executive director, Robert Dunham, pointed out a notable social shift among Americans in attitudes towards executions.
“Juries are becoming increasingly more reluctant to impose death sentences. Prosecutors are becoming more circumspect in seeking the death penalty, and the net result is that we have hit historic lows in death penalties imposed.
“In fact, this year for the first time, we can say that in the past decade, fewer death sentences were imposed in the US than in the decade of the 1960s leading to the Supreme Court’s 1972 decision that temporarily abolished the death penalty,” he told Reuters.
Another contributing factor to the loss of support of the death penalty is botched executions, one of which was that of Joseph Wood, who struggled to breathe for almost two hours before dying by lethal injection last year.
“We can’t know for certain what an individual jury is thinking in any given case, but what we do know is that the public is concerned about state failures to carry out executions. We know they’re concerned about innocence. We know they’re increasingly concerned about issues of mental illness and intellectual disability.
“All of these things are factors. And I think that after constant exposure to flaw after flaw, failure after failure, the public support for the death penalty has dropped significantly,” said Dunham.
The use of the drug midazolam was contested by three death row inmates earlier in June, causing several states to put their executions on hold. They argued that the drug could not maintain a coma-like unconscious state, instead leaving inmates in intense pain when lethal injections are administered.
The US Supreme Court however ruled that the drug does not violate the US’s Eighth Amendment banning cruel and unusual punishment.
“The US is the only western democracy that still has capital punishment and when it comes to executions, it stands along with China, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, North Korea, among the states among the nations that are carrying out executions…
“Countries are often judged by the company they keep, and a lot of Americans and a lot of people across Europe think that that’s not very good company,” said Dunham.