More than 30 years after the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court, capital punishment in the U.S. still faces serious legal and political challenges, even as a persistent majority of the public believes convicted murderers should be executed, reports Stateline.org. The U.S. is among a handful of industrialized countries to sanction capital punishment, and it has executed more than 15,000 people since colonial days.
The death penalty’s use has declined steadily in recent years as it has run into obstacles in state capitals and in the courts. Of the more than 3,300 prisoners on U.S. death rows, 42 were executed in 2007, the fewest in 13 years. The low total reflected a seven-month suspension of all executions while the Supreme Court examined lethal injection, but it also aligned with a steady decrease in executions over the past decade. In 1999, the most active year in the death penalty's modern history, 98 prisoners were put to death.