The number of people sentenced to death last year was the lowest total since the Supreme Court reinstated the penalty in 1976, says the Associated Press, quoting the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. There were 125 people sent to death row in 2004, down from 144 in 2003. It was the sixth consecutive annual decline. In 1998, 300 people received death sentences.
Miriam Gohara of the legal defense fund said exonerations based on DNA evidence are one major cause of the decline. She said jurors are less willing to impose the penalty when they see that the system occasionally fails. The U.S. Supreme Court has issued decisions narrowing the death penalty, putting a stop to the execution of juveniles, the insane, and the mentally retarded.