Category Archives: Death Penalty

The Death Penalty in the United States: Less Frequent, Less Supported, More Arbitrary

Reginald Griffin
Reginald Griffin was exonerated and freed from death row in Missouri in 2013. Photo: Death Penalty Information Center.

A year-end report by the Death Penalty Information Center shows that the number of death sentences and executions in the United States has dropped, and support for the death penalty reached its lowest point in 40 years.

According to the report, there were 39 executions in 2013, continuing a steady decline from a high of 98 in 1999. Meanwhile, the number of death sentences also dropped this year, to 80 from a peak of 315 in 1994 and 1996. Public support for the death penalty dropped to 60 percent, its lowest level in 40 years. Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013, the sixth state in six years to do so.

Reginald Griffin of Missouri became the 143rd person to be exonerated from death row, an example of the potential danger of executing innocent people. Many states have been unable to establish a method of lethal injection that can meet Constitutional requirements.  With so many doubts about the death penalty, it’s no wonder that just 2 percent of U.S. counties have been responsible for the majority of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. As a New York Times editorial points out, that fact makes the application of the death penalty that much more arbitrary.