The number of inmates on Texas’ death row dropped again this year, continuing a trend, the Texas Tribune reports. The decline is caused largely by fewer new death sentences and more reduced punishments. Texas still held more executions than any other state. “Prosecutors, juries, judges, and the public are subjecting our state’s death penalty practices to unprecedented scrutiny,” said said Kristin Houlé of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “In an increasing number of cases, they are accepting alternatives to this flawed and irreversible punishment.” Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports the death penalty, agrees that the decline is partially due to shifting attitudes among jurors and prosecutors. He said death sentences are also down because there has been a drop in the murder rate nationwide. “The support for the death penalty for the worst crimes remains strong,” he said.
There are 234 inmates living with death sentences in Texas. That number has been dropping since 2003. The death row population peaked at 460 in 1999. Seven men were executed this year, the same number as last year, which was the lowest total in two decades. Even with its relatively low number, Texas was still the state with the most U.S. executions. This isn’t unusual given that the state has put to death nearly five times more individuals than any other state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Texas accounted for 30 percent of the nation’s 23 executions in 2017. Arkansas was second with four. Last year, Georgia put more people to death than Texas, the first time since 2001 that Texas wasn’t responsible for the most executions.