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Report: U.S. Death Penalty Use Declines

January 3, 2012

LANSING, Mich. - A non-profit clearinghouse for information about capital punishment finds that the use of the death penalty in the U.S. continued to decline in 2011.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, says the number of new death sentences nationwide dropped to the lowest number since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

He says a drop in other metrics also shows that Americans are moving further away 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."

In the last four years, four states have repealed the death penalty; New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and Illinois. Capital punishment has been illegal in Michigan since 1846.

Dieter says policymakers in other states would be wise to examine whether abolishing the practice is a better use of taxpayer money.

"A good, careful death penalty is an expensive death penalty. There's just no way of getting around it. You can't do it on the cheap and still abide by the Constitution and our basic principles of life."

Dieter says last September's execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, whose guilt was doubted by many, illustrated the risk of exacting a death sentence. He adds that the expense of inmates seeking appeals, coupled with inmates sitting on Death Row for decades, lends room for pause, and he expects more states could join Michigan in 2012, by making capital punishment illegal.

The report can be found at www.deathpenaltyinfo.org

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI