The number of state executions in the U.S. fell 10 percent in 2004, continuing a five-year decline in the use of the death penalty, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. A dozen states combined to put 59 convicts to death, said the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. The South led the nation with 85 percent of all executions. None took place in Louisiana, which has not executed a convict since 2001 and has 88 people awaiting lethal injection on death row.
Only two states outside of the South — Ohio and Nevada — used the death penalty in 2004. Texas again topped the list by putting 23 people to death by lethal injection, one fewer than in the previous year. Capital punishment opponents say the cases in which inmates on death row have been cleared by DNA or other evidence found after conviction have quieted the call for executions. Death penalty advocates say the lower rate of executions and death sentences suggest tougher laws and the threat of execution are true deterrents and have helped lower crime.