Nationwide Execution Total Rising Again This Year

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The modern high of 98 executions nationwide in 1999 fell to only 43 last year, but the trend is now shifting direction, says Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman. With Tennessee having executed Cecil Johnson yesterday, Texas is in line to make the execution of Bobby Wayne Woods today the 50th execution of 2009. (There are reasons to worry that Woods may be mentally retarded and thus should be constitutionally protected from being executed.)

Berman says it is noteworthy that we are seeing this uptick in executions during the first year of a Democratic administration in the White House. Executions ramped up significantly during the Clinton Administration, the nation averaged more than 85 executions each year during his second term. In contrast, total executions went down significantly during the Bush Administration, and the nation has averaged less than 50 executions each year during his the second term.

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