39 Death Row Executions in 2013, a 10% Drop from Last Year

Capital punishment in the U.S. is on the decline, according to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center

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Courtesy of the Death Penalty Information Center

Capital punishment is waning in the U.S., with 2013 marking the second time in almost two decades that the U.S. recorded less than 40 executions.

The death penalty was carried out 39 times in 2013, about a 10 percent drop from the 43 government-sanctioned executions last year, according to an annual report from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). Although the 80 new death sentences handed out this year are more than the 77 in 2012, they are still among the lowest since capital punishment was reinstated in the 1970s.

The decline reflects growing sentiment among Americans to end capital punishment. An annual Gallup poll showed that just 60 percent of Americans approve of the death penalty, the lowest level in 40 years. In May, Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty. Five other states — Illinois, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and Connecticut — have repealed capital punishment since 2007, according to DPIC.

Another reason for the decline in capital punishment is the U.S.’s inability to secure drugs from European countries that oppose the death penalty. Missouri postponed one execution from October to early December over concerns that using the drug Propofol, which is made in Europe, would limit the U.S.’s ability to secure it for other uses in the future. Other companies have stopped making drugs previously used in U.S. executions.

Among the 39 executions, Texas carried out 16, marking its sixth consecutive year as the state with the most executions. Although Texas is often aligned with capital punishment, its annual number of death sentences has declined by almost 80 percent since 1999. It meted out less than ten new death sentences in 2012.

In 2013 the death penalty was also carried out seven times in Florida, six times in Oklahoma, three times in Ohio, twice in Arizona and Missouri and once each in Alabama, Georgia and Virginia. While most death-penalty executions still happen in the South, several Southern states, including South Carolina, Tennessee and Louisiana, recorded no executions at all in 2013.