About once a week, a state puts a convicted murderer is put to death, most often in Texas, where all but one of this year’s 12 executions have occurred, says the Chicago Tribune. Around the U.S., capital punishment is under siege. States are acting on long-festering questions about the equity of capital punishment and made bold moves aimed at repealing the death penalty, slowing the practice or temporarily halting it because of rising costs.
Nebraska’s legislature came within one vote of repealing its death penalty law. The new Maryland governor called for the repeal of capital punishment. Most of Georgia’s 72 capital cases have been stopped because the state’s public defender system has run out of money. New Jersey lawmakers are drafting a bill to repeal that state’s death penalty. Last month the governor of Virginia, a state whose 96 executions since 1976 are exceeded only by those in Texas, vetoed five bills that would have expanded the use of capital punishment. Said Prof. Franklin Zimring of the University of California, Berkeley’s law school: “People are starting to talk about cost and notice the marginality of the death penalty.” Overall, the legal system’s delivery of death sentences has dramatically slowed. During the 1990s courts issued about 300 death sentences annually. Those numbers have plummeted in the last seven years, to 128 in 2005 and 102 last year.