Wednesday, December 19, 2007

U.S. Executions at 13 Year Low

According to a report issued today by the Death Penalty Information Center, the number of executions carried out in the United States in 2007 reached a 13 year low. The Death Penalty Information Center reported that 42 executions were carried out in 2007 compared to 53 in 2006. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the highest number of executions occurred in 1998 when 98 executions were carried out. The Death Penalty Information Center also reported that 110 death sentences were imposed in 2007, the lowest number since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

The report from the Death Penalty Information Center attributes the drop in the number of executions to a case pending before the United States Supreme Court, Baze v. Rees 07-5439, a Kentucky case in which the Supreme Court will consider whether the death penalty in Kentucky violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The lawyers in Baze argue that the way the death penalty in Kentucky is carried out, as well and many other states, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment because the first of three drugs injected does not render the inmate unconscious, thereby causing them to suffer excruciating pain when the heart stopping drugs are injected afterwards. Since the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the Baze case, the court has stayed executions in at least 8 states pending a decision on the Baze case.

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