Rarity: US Executions Fall Below 40 for Year

Opposition group thinks we might be in 'final chapter' of capital punishment

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 19, 2013 3:24 PM CST

(Newser) – The Death Penalty Information Center's year-end report is out, and the number of US executions fell to 39 in 2013—just the second time that number has fallen below 40 in almost 20 years, reports USA Today. What's behind the drop? Difficulty in getting the necessary drugs, fewer death sentences, and waning public support for the death penalty are major factors, says the center, which opposes capital punishment. The report's lead author notes that executions have been on the decline since 2000, but "perhaps this is the final chapter, though that is too early to tell." Texas, which has the country's busiest death row, is scrambling to get its hands on the drugs, while other states have halted executions altogether.

Florida, meanwhile, began using the untested drug midazolam hydrochloride, never before used in executions, which some say may inflict cruel and unusual punishment, reports the Guardian. "The goalposts keep shifting under the death penalty states," says the lead author. "As soon as they move to a new protocol, the boycott spreads." Also from the report: Sticking at last year's all-time low, just nine states performed executions in 2013, while the number of death row inmates fell from 3,170 in 2012 to 3,108.

A bottle of propofol, used as an execution drug, is seen at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
This Oct. 24, 2001 file photo shows the death chamber at the state prison in Jackson, Ga.   (AP Photo/Ric Feld, File)
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