The number of people executed in the U.S. this year dropped to the lowest level since 1991, as states impose fewer death sentences and defendants in capital cases get access to better legal help, reports the Associated Press. The Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that opposes capital punishment, said 28 inmates were executed as of yesterday, down from 35 last year and far below the peak of 98 in 1999. Another 49 criminal defendants received death sentences this year, down 33 percent from 2014 and the lowest number since the early 1970s. The numbers reflect a steady decline in death sentences over the past 15 years and a broad shift in public attitudes that has made capital punishment increasingly rare, said the center’s Robert Dunham. “What we're seeing is the cumulative effect of falling public support for the death penalty,” he said.
About 61 percent of Americans support the death penalty in murder cases, said a Gallup poll in October, but that share has inched downward while opposition has crept up. While capital punishment remains legal in 31 states, only six states accounted for all the executions this year — Florida, Missouri, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. That's the fewest since 1988. Texas led the way with 13 executions, followed by six in Missouri and five in Georgia. But Texas imposed only two new death sentences this year, while Georgia and Virginia had no new death row inmates. The number of death row inmates nationwide is below 3,000 for first time since 1995.