Executions in Texas, which has operated the busiest U.S. death chamber, have fallen to their lowest level in 15 years, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Texas’ new death sentences — which account for 30 percent of executions nationally — remained at an all-time low set last year as more juries imposed life without parole instead. Victim rights advocates said the decline can be traced to an overall decrease in crime and concerns about the cost of litigating executions.
Death penalty opponents attributed it to increasing public discomfort with executions amid concern about wrongful convictions and discrimination against racial minorities. Thirteen convicts were executed in 2011, compared with 17 in 2010 and 26 in 2007. A record 40 convicts were executed in 2000. William “Rusty” Hubbarth of Justice for All, a national advocacy group for crime victims, said the data do not signal a shift in sentiment against the death penalty, as execution opponents suggest. “It’s not a change in mores across Texas or America,” the Austin attorney said. “It’s a question of changing demographics and expense and a lower crime rate. [ ] The baby boomers are becoming sedentary. We’re not going out and committing crimes like we used to.”