Death Sentences, Executions Drop in 2008

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via CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The number of executions in U.S. prisons hit a 14-year-low in 2008, continuing a downward trend and coinciding with a drop in juries handing out death sentences, according to a year-end report.

The Death Penalty Information Center estimates 111 defendants will be sentenced to death this year, the lowest figure since executions were reinstated in 1976.

Just 37 people were put to death in 2008, compared with a record amount of 98 executions in 1999. Texas carried out nearly half of this year’s executions, and one state outside the South carried out executions — Ohio, with two. No executions are scheduled for the rest of the year.

The reduced figures were helped by a de facto Supreme Court moratorium that put off any capital punishment for the first four months of 2008.

The high court ruled in April that lethal injection procedures in Kentucky were constitutional, lifting an unofficial ban on the procedure that had been in place for about eight months while the justices considered the appeal. That case involved convicted murderers Ralph Baze and Thomas Bowling, who both remain on death row in that state. Continue reading