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Report: New Low for Death Sentences and Executions

December 29, 2011

HELENA, Mont. - Use of the death penalty in the United States continued to decline this year, according to a report by a nonprofit clearinghouse for information about capital punishment.

New death sentences nationwide dropped to the lowest number since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. A drop in other measures, he says, also shows Americans are moving further from capital punishment, reflecting a decade-long trend.

"Executions dropped. Public support for the death penalty in the Gallup Poll dropped this year, and the number of states with the death penalty declined this year."

Montana's state Senate voted to repeal the death penalty this year, although the House didn't agree. In the past four years, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York have repealed capital punishment.

Dieter cites fiscal concerns as the leading reason why states are scrutinizing death-penalty laws.

"Most states have no executions in a given year, and if you're not using and it's costing you a lot, that's one more reason to reconsider the death penalty. I think we'll see some states doing exactly that."

The Montana Abolition Coalition says there are plans to introduce another bill to ditch the state's death penalty in 2013.

The report is online at deathpenaltyinfo.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT