Executions are on the decline across the United States — unless you live in Texas or Florida.
The U.S. put to death 39 people in 2013, just the second time in the past two decades that number has fallen below 40, according to data compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center. Additionally, the number of new death sentences issued in 2013 was near its lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated in the 1970s.
Total executions fell by four overall from last year, but the two states that carried out the most — Texas (16) and Florida (7) — both increased their pace from 2012. Together, the two accounted for 59 percent of all U.S. executions in 2013, although Texas carried out fewer than 10 death sentences for the sixth consecutive year — a stark contrast to the 48 recorded in 1999.
The end-year report cites an ongoing shortage of lethal-injection drugs in several states for 2013’s drop in executions. California, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Maryland have not required a death sentence in more than seven years “because of their inability to settle on a lethal-injection protocol.” The report continues:
In order to continue executions, states such as Texas, Georgia, Missouri, and Ohio have turned to a controversial source of execution drugs: compounding pharmacies.”¦ To shield the sources of controversial drugs from public scrutiny, many states have resorted to secrecy, even declaring the compounding pharmacies to be part of their anonymous “execution team.” Such censorship has attracted increasing judicial skepticism, with executions in Georgia and Florida being put on hold for examination of the laws shielding makers of lethal drugs.
The difficulty in procuring necessary drugs has also elicited vocal outcry from law-enforcement officials in some states where the death penalty is still on the books.
“Our system is completely broken, and I don’t know how to say it more bluntly than that,” Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel told National Journal in October. “It’s a complete impossibility. I can no more flap my arms and fly across the state than I can carry out an execution.”
Maryland became the sixth state in six years to repeal the death penalty, joining New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Illinois, and Connecticut. The report also highlights findings that only 2 percent of U.S. counties have accounted for more than half of all cases that lead to an execution since 1976.