Partly because an unofficial moratorium on executions lasted until last April, when the U.S. Supreme Court gave its blessing to the lethal injection method employed by most states and the federal government, 2008 ended with the lowest number of executions in 14 years. The Kansas City Star says that the rush of executions some expected to follow the high court ruling turned instead into a trickle everywhere except Texas, which carried out 18 of the country's 37 executions. Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes executions, says, “It takes millions of taxpayer dollars to arrive at a single execution 15 years after the trial.”
The number of people sentenced to death dropped in 2008 to the lowest number since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. State death sentences have decreased by more than 40 percent since the 1990s; federal death sentences were 50 percent during the same time period. Dudley Sharp, a victim's advocate and pro-death penalty expert, said the drop in new death sentences may reflect a decrease in homicides along with the reluctance of prosecutors to pursue death cases in states where judges tend to be anti-death penalty. Several states convened commissions in 2008 to study the death penalty. Maryland's panel recommended that the state abolish it. A California commission found that it cost the state $138 million each year to maintain its death penalty system.