The Dying Death Penalty
There used to be 300 death sentences pronounced each year in the United States. In 2016, there were just thirty. Capital punishment has now been outlawed in nineteen states and in other states it is decreasing in its imposition. Jurors are increasingly reluctant to impose it. Last year, only twenty-seven counties out of more than 3,000 nationwide sent anyone to death row.
Jurors are starting to reject the death penalty when it is asked for. When prosecutors seek the death penalty, they are successful at obtaining it in far fewer cases. Even in Texas, which has been the state where the death penalty is sought and imposed far more than any other state, jurors are rejecting the death penalty in many cases. Last year alone, six fewer people were executed in Texas than in 2015.
Exonerations have certainly played a part in this national trend. Forensic science, true crime documentaries, and the evolution of police work have all become very publicized topics that garner high levels of interest among the general public. The futility of death sentences has also played a part. Jurors are aware that people sit on death row for years and years at an incredible expense to the community before their death sentence is carried out, if it is ever carried out. More jurors are opting for life without parole. More prosecutors are opting for life without parole or a regular life sentence. It is very possible that we will see the virtual end of the death penalty within the next ten to twenty years.