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Report: New Low for Death Sentences and Executions

December 29, 2011

BALTIMORE - 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."

Maryland Citizens Against State Executions is rallying behind possible state legislation next year to abolish the death penalty.

Fiscal concerns, Dieter says, are 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."

In the past four years, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York have repealed the death penalty.

The report is online at deathpenaltyinfo.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD