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Report: New Low for Death Sentences and Executions

January 4, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - 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."

Indiana's last execution took place in 2009. In the past four years, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York have repealed the death penalty.

Dieter says fiscal concerns 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."

A 2010 fiscal impact report, prepared by the non-partisan Legislative Services Committee for the Indiana General Assembly, shows death penalty cases and direct appeals cost Hoosier taxpayers $450,000 on average, compared with more than $42,000 for a case involving a sentence of life without possibility of parole.

The report from the Death Penalty Information Center is online at deathpenaltyinfo.org.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN