Counting Down to the End of the Death Penalty

The start of a new year always presents an opportunity to think back on the successes and failures of the past year and to look forward to the future with a sense of hope and optimism. Before the countdown begins to 2014, let’s take a moment to reflect on the progress we’ve made towards abolition of the death penalty in 2013.  We’ve got a lot to celebrate.

10… As we’ve seen in recent years, the decline in new death sentences and executions continued this year. The number of executions in 2013 declined by almost 10% from those in 2012, from 43 to 39. It was only the second time in 19 years that the number of executions dropped below 40.

9… Only nine states carried out executions in 2013, and the great majority of them took place in only two states:  Florida and Texas.

8… While Texas remained a leader in executions among death penalty states, new death sentences in the state continued to decline. Dallas County, unfortunately, has emerged as the state’s new leader in meting out the death penalty, responsible for more than 20% of all new death sentences since 2008. And the sentences imposed are still tainted by racial discrimination. Eight of the 11 death sentences out of Dallas County were imposed against Black men, and two against Hispanics. All three men sentenced to death in the county this year were Black.   

7… A shortage of drugs available for lethal injection continued to hold up executions this year. California, Maryland, and North Carolina have not had an execution in over seven years due to problems surrounding their lethal injection protocols.

6… Maryland became the sixth state in six years to abolish the death penalty, joining Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York. 

5… Thirty states, the federal government, the military, and the District of Columbia have not carried out any executions in the last five years.

4… As more and more people recognize that our capital punishment system is fraught with error and administered unfairly, an annual Gallup poll showed that public support for the death penalty is at an all-time low. Only 60% of Americans favor capital punishment – the lowest number in four decades, and 40% of the public do not believe the death penalty is administered fairly. A majority of Boston residents support a life sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, if he were convicted in the Boston marathon bombing.

3… The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles posthumously pardoned three of the nine Scottsboro Boys, the only ones who had not already been pardoned or had the charges against them dropped. The Scottsboro Boys, a group of young Black men, had been wrongly convicted and all except for the youngest been sentenced to death for the rape of two white women by all-white juries more than 80 years ago in the state. Their cases resulted in two landmark civil rights decisions by the Supreme Court: one requiring the effective assistance of counsel in capital cases and one prohibiting the exclusion of Blacks from jury service. While the legacy of their case still hangs over the state, their pardon was a small step in acknowledging this gross racial injustice. 

2… A mere 2% of the counties across the country are responsible for the majority of death sentences in the modern era of capital punishment, according to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center. The findings highlighted yet again the arbitrariness of our death penalty system.

1… One more person was added to the list of people exonerated from death row, which has now grown to 143. In October, the prosecution dismissed all charges against Reginald Griffin, an innocent man who spent 30 years on Missouri’s death row.

0… The once execution-heavy states of Virginia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Tennessee had zero new death sentences this year. 

It’s clear the clock is ticking on the death penalty in the United States, though not fast enough. Across the country, more than three thousand people still remain on death row and hundreds more face the death penalty. In 2012, North Carolina repealed the landmark Racial Justice Act, and Florida passed the Timely Justice Act, in an attempt to speed up executions those states. With these challenges ahead, our New Year’s resolution is clear: we’ll continue to fight for abolition, through litigation and advocacy, until we can count down to the end of capital punishment for good.

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Why is capital punishment a thing to be ended? Seems clear to me that in certain circumstances it is not an overdone response to horrific acts by people unsuited to continue in society?


If the goal is to strive towards a civil society, then the death penalty must be looked at rationaly and realistically, as a barbaric response to real or imagined barbarianism. Surely our greatest minds can come up with something more reasonable, not to mention more effective, ways to handle individuals unable to cope with society.

Ricky Tew

I have lost a sister Sherry Mansure at the hands of a serial killer Sean Gobble, I STAND for the death penalty. You kill blantenly then you should die. People doing life for murder, have good days, bad days and great days EVEN IN PRISON. So how does that equal to the days my sister has? OR the days we could have with her. The killer gets visitors, we get a grave stone!


Someone in my family was lost to violent death, and I agree with the death penalty, but I damn sure DON'T agree with giving them a cocktail lethal drug that takes them 20 minutes to die, like the guy in Ohio did.
Eric, the person I lost, would never want them to take 15 to 20 minutes to kill someone with an untested lethal drug.
I don't want it b/c I can't see how approving of his taking that long to die makes me any better than HE was when he killed his victim.
The last thing on earth that I want is for someone to compare me with the people who killed my daughter's dad. I'd rather be dead than have someone think I'm as low-down as THEY were when they killed him and thousands of other people whose biggest crime was that they were at work in Tower 1 and 2 of the World Trade Center.
That's my opinion of the matter now that I saw the botched execution that occurred in Ohio a few days ago.

Vicki B.

I think people who claim you can look at Capital Punishment "rationally and reasonably" have hearts that must have been forged in the freezing frost of the Ninth Circle of Dante's Hell.
Do you look at the funerals of their dead "rationally and reasonably" too?
Homicide has NEVer been rational or reasonable to the victim's family.
In fact when you first hear about it, or when *I* first learned of it - which was when I saw Tower 1 crumbling to the ground knowing he was trapped inside - something happens to your mind that I can't describe in words except to note that it's the most terrible feeling I've ever experienced. The enormity of seeing or hearing that someone else thought they had every right to kill your loved one devastates the person you were right before it happened. So far, and for me, I've never been able to fully recover from the images of his last moments on earth.
I feel nothing even CLOSE to rational or reasonable about it. I feel like the "people" who killed him are more barbaric than the lowest form of life that's crawling in our streets.
I agree with Capital Punishment for guilty people who also qualify for it. Not everyone does. But I'm totally against having it take more than 5 minutes to happen.
I also don't believe that just because something's "broken" that it can never be fixed and we should just throw it away. Why should we do that? Why shouldn't we try to fix the broken parts so we can be "stronger at the broken places?" as Hemingway said in 'A Call to Arms?'


Your thinking is screwed up. These jerks deserve to die. And we wont have to pay for them all the years theyre in prison.

from Richard, V...

"People unsuited to live in society..." and how do we define who qualifies for that? Because I believe that Wayne LaPierre, after helping ramrod a law into existence that's actually a reality in Indiana now, giving cop killers a stand your ground right, has proven without any further doubt that he's "unsuited to live in society" - ANY society. The man would be unsuited to co-exist in a society of head hunters, because he'd probably terrify them all into fleeing from him and alighting somewhere miles and miles away from him.
To be in his position and make something like that a reality shows an irresponsible act of the highest and most selfish stature.
People in high positions also have high responsibilities and expectations. If he chooses to ignore them, then maybe he'll be happier living on some island that knows no viable habitation. At least then people can sleep easier knowing something like that is out of their hair.
Alas, the decision is not mine to make; otherwise that man's mouth would not be running at the speed of light. For this very reason, I choose to oppose capital punishment. It's too variable and too many other people could qualify for it IMO who don't necessarily meet the written standards of capital punishment.
Or maybe we should start assigning the duties of putting someone to death to the loudest supporters of it. A doctor can train them to do the deed and oversee it's execution; then we'll find out how many people are still truly FOR capital punishment.
Anyone can support an act of violence when they're not the ones being ordered to do it.
That's why so many lawmakers support war. Almost NONE of them have actually fought in a war much less have killed the enemy. Not all warriors end up killing someone in combat; others don't know if it's their rounds or another soldier's that killed the enemy. But there are a few who actually have to kill in war and they know it, because they were placed into a situation where it was obvious. Unless you've done that, you have no idea what it does to you - even if you THOUGHT you'd know before it ever happened.

Most people who are for capital punishment, as someone in my family is, also called every Vietnam Veteran a baby killer even thought NOT every soldier participated in the My Lai massacre, the war crime that precipitated this lifelong stigma on every veteran who went there.
They have no ability to comprehend that not every soldier in Vietnam committed war crimes but want you to entrust them with deciding who's worthy or not of the death penalty?
Well I'm sorry, but I'm not giving over my trust to someone who appears that mentally challenged on the issue.


No thankfully, they won't end. Not while Texas is part of the USA. Other States will reinstate hopefully, once they understand the foolishness of their death penalty opposition.

You folks are disgusting barbarians who defend the indefensible. Morally speaking, these murderers should have the ultimate sanction visited on them because it deters at least one person - the murderer. It also gives the family satisfaction that justice has been served for the loss of their loved one and that they are safe from the beast that killed them.

Not that you care about the safety of anyone but the most vile murderers. That makes you barbaric, not those who support the death penalty!

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