Death Penalty Opponents Are Winning “¦ Almost Everywhere

Two states accounted for more than half of all U.S. executions in 2013, a year in which capital punishment decreased across the country.

A view of the death chamber from the witness room at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio. 
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz
Dec. 19, 2013, 5:23 a.m.

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.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
22 hours ago

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
23 hours ago

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
23 hours ago

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
1 days ago

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

USA Today Weighs in on Presidential Race for First Time Ever
1 days ago

"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."