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Is Death Penalty ‘Marginalized and Meaningless’? Capital Sentences Remain Near Historic Low

Posted Dec 18, 2012 12:12 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The death penalty appears to be waning in popularity, according to a new report.

Seventy-eight defendants were sentenced to death in 2012, the second lowest number since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, according to the report (PDF) by the Death Penalty Information Center. The low point during that time was 2011, when 76 defendants were sentenced to death. The high point was 1996 when 315 death sentences were imposed.

The number of executions carried out, 43, was the same as in 2011. Only nine states carried out the executions, equaling the fewest number of states to do so in 20 years.

Meanwhile, Connecticut became the fifth state in five years to abolish the death penalty, following New Jersey, New York, New Mexico and Illinois.

A press release quotes Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center and author of the report. “Capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country,” he said. “It is very likely that more states will take up the question of death penalty repeal in the years ahead.”

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