Even as more death row convicts are executed in the U.S., juries continue to grow more wary of capital punishment, says a Death Penalty Information Center report quoted by the New York Times. Death sentences handed down by judges and juries in 2009 continued a trend of decline for seven years in a row, with 106 projected. That is down two-thirds from a peak of 328 in 1994.
The sentencing drop was most striking in Texas, had 9 death sentences this year after averaged 34 annually in the 1990s. Vic Wisner, a former Houston prosecutor, said a “constant media drumbeat” about suspect convictions and exonerations “has really changed the attitude of jurors.” He said that while polls showed continued general support for capital punishment, “there is a real worry by jurors of, 'I believe in it, but what if we later find out it was someone else and it's too late to do anything about it?' “