The newly released annual report from the Death Penalty Information Center says there were only 28 executions in America this year, the lowest number in a quarter-century. Furthermore: “As of December 15, fourteen states and the federal government have imposed 49 new death sentences this year, a 33% decline over last year’s total and the lowest number since the early 1970s when the death penalty was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Executions are almost down to pre-crack era levels, and our taste for imposing the death penalty is clearly continuing to decline. In fact, new death penalty judgments are now largely confined a tiny group of outlier jurisdictions—the DPIC says that “Nearly two-thirds of all new death sentences this year came from the same two percent of U.S. counties that are responsible for more than half of all death-sentenced inmates nationwide.”
One day in the next decade or three, the death penalty will be ended. That will amount to one small and overdue step on the road towards an American justice system that actually doles out justice. Until then, we can take solace in the grim fact that we are killing fewer of our fellow citizens by choice.