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Executions Down in 2008

Jack Payden-Travers,
Capital Punishment Project
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December 14, 2008

The demise of the death penalty continues, according to a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). Compared to an average of almost 300 death sentences per year in the 1990s, 2008 has seen only 111 individuals sentenced to death — the lowest number of new condemnations in three decades.

And since a high of 98 executions in 1999, executions have steadily declined to a 14-year low of 37 in 2008.

Furthermore, as the title of the DPIC report succinctly puts it, “Marginalization of the Death Penalty Deepens with 95% of Executions in the South.” The geographic location of the state in which the murder was committed determines who lives and who dies. In 2008, the South accounted for all but three of the 37 executions: Texas -18, Virginia — 4, Georgia — 3, South Carolina — 3, Florida — 2, Mississippi — 2, Oklahoma — 2. Ohio executed 2 men and Kentucky had 1. The good news is that of 36 death penalty states only 9 actually administered lethal injections.

This U.S. movement away from the use of this barbaric punishment is consistent with a similar worldwide movement towards abolition of the death penalty. Just this morning, News reported that the West African nation of Togo has joined the list of nations that have abolished capital punishment. Last year just five countries — China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and the United States — carried out the overwhelming majority (88%) of known executions. Death penalty nations are becoming increasingly isolated within the international community as calls for a global moratorium gain strength.

The question is not whether the death penalty will be repealed but how long it will take. Rather than continue to pour millions of dollars into the coffers of death, let us invest in our communities. Let us choose life rather than death.

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