According to a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center, 2012 saw the second fewest number of death sentences since the penalty was reinstated in 1976. States like Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Indiana handed our zero death sentences. Overall nine states carried out executions in 2012, but just four states, Arizona, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas, were responsible for over three-quarters of the executions in the entire country.
2012 also marked some key victories in the push to end the death penalty. Connecticut became the fifth state in five years to abolish the death penalty, just after New Jersey, New York, New Mexico and Illinois. And California came so close to completely abolishing capital punishment in the state. It’s part of a growing trend. More than half of the states in this country either do not have the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in five years.
What does that mean for 2013? Could 2013 be the year we finally get rid of the death penalty?
It could. If we work hard enough. “Capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country,” said Richard Dieter, DPIC’s Executive Director and the 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. It is very likely that more states will take up the question of death penalty repeal in the years ahead.”
The fight in California illustrates clear momentum on the side of repeal. Voters understand that as a form of punishment its time has passed. California alone spends $184 million annually on a program that has zero impact on reducing crime rates and a spotty at best record of preventing executions of innocent people.
Let’s make 2013 the year we say say goodbye, forever, to capital punishment.
Photo from kangotraveler via flickr.