WASHINGTON — Only nine of the 50 US states carried out executions in 2012, the fewest in 20 years and the latest indication of a decline in the use of capital punishment, a report said Tuesday.
The study by the Death Penalty Information Center found that the number of new sentences had declined by 75 percent from a peak in 1996, with just four states accounting for over three-quarters of executions nationwide.
“Capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country,” said Richard Dieter, the director of the center and author of the report.
“In 2012, fewer states have the death penalty, fewer carried out executions, and death sentences and executions were clustered in a small number of states.”
This year Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty. More than half of US states — 29 in all — either have no death penalty or have not carried out an execution in the last five years, the report said.
The total number of executions in 2012 — 43 — was the same as in 2011, but was less than half that in 1999, which saw the highest number of executions since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
But the rate of new death sentences continues to decline as juries have become increasingly reluctant to impose capital punishment. Seventy-eight new sentences were handed down in 2012, down from 315 in 1996.
Even states that have led the country in executions, like Virginia — second only to Texas in total executions since 1976 — and North and South Carolina, neither sentenced anyone to death nor carried out any executions in 2012.
No executions were carried out in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana or Missouri, all staunchly conservative states where capital punishment enjoys strong support.
Just four states — Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Arizona — accounted for more than three quarters of all executions, while Texas, California, Florida and Alabama together accounted for 65 percent of new death sentences.