by Melanie Wilmoth
On several occasions in recent months, the death penalty debate has made its way into the public spotlight.
In September, Rick Perry made headlines at a Republican debate when the fact that he presided over 234 executions in Texas was met with cheerful applause. Later that month, media coverage of death penalty issues surged again when the State of Georgia executed Troy Davis despite significant doubts surrounding his guilt. Moreover, recent stories of death row exonerations served to increase concerns about the use of capital punishment in the U.S.
A Gallup poll conducted in October indicated that U.S. support for the death penalty dropped to a 39-year low. In fact, just a few weeks ago, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber halted the death penalty stating, “I simply cannot participate once again in something that I believe to be morally wrong.”
Today, Laura Sullivan from NPR reported that for the first time in over 30 years, fewer than 100 people were sent to death row in 2011. “Just 78 offenders were handed capital sentences,” Sullivan says, “And only 43 inmates were executed — almost half as many as 10 years ago.”
What do these changing trends mean for capital punishment in the U.S? (more…)