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The DOJ delivers the Comey memos to Congress. Also on our rundown: More evidence that rent prices are out of reach in many markets; Wisconsin counties brace for sulfide mining; and the Earth Day focus this weekend in North Dakota is on recycling.

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Support for Death Penalty Lowest in 45 Years

Support for the death penalty is at its lowest point since 1972, and prosecutors are increasingly seeking life in prison without the possibility of parole. (CAC/Flickr)
Support for the death penalty is at its lowest point since 1972, and prosecutors are increasingly seeking life in prison without the possibility of parole. (CAC/Flickr)
October 30, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. -- The number of Americans who favor the death penalty continues to drop, with a new Gallup poll finding the level of support is at its lowest point since 1972.

The survey, which recorded 60 percent in favor of capital punishment last year, found support had declined to 55 percent this year, with that number dropping to 39 percent among Democrats. Kristin Collins, associate director of public information at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, said society is beginning to understand that a death sentence isn't always the worst punishment.

"Being against the death penalty doesn't mean you're against punishment for people that commit murder,” Collins said. "It means that you see that there are other equally effective - maybe more effective - ways to keep our society safe and to punish the worst crimes."

Two Virginia prisoners were executed this year, and a third had his sentence commuted to life without parole. Executions in the state have become increasingly problematic, due in part to difficulties surrounding the drugs used.

Critics of capital punishment point to examples of wrongful convictions and instances of mishandling of evidence. Supporters say it's justified for the most heinous of crimes.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, death penalty cases cost almost twice as much as those where it is not sought. Collins said people are beginning to understand the cost of the death penalty to the criminal justice system in the form of time and money.

"There really couldn't be a more inefficient way to punish crime,” she said. "Death penalty cases go through years, sometimes decades of appeals and we need those appeals because we have to make sure we don't execute an innocent person."

Collins added that with life without parole, the automatic appeals process isn't triggered by the same mandates in the system that go with a death sentence, and there are fewer attorneys involved in the process - reducing the demand on the system.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA