Americans Losing Taste for Death Penalty

Capital sentences and executions slow as public attitudes change
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2007 7:34 AM CDT
This image released by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services shows the electric chair at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, Neb., April 3, 2007. For the second time this year, state...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Capital punishment seems to be dying a slow death in the US. As public sentiment shifts toward life sentences, the number of death sentences has dropped 60% since the mid-'90s and the number of executions has fallen 46% since 1999, reports the Economist. Then there’s Texas, which has carried out some 40% of the nation's 1,000 executions since 1976.

Of the three main arguments supporting capital punishment—deterrence, religious "eye for an eye" retaliation, and a lower cost compared with life imprisonment—evidence for the first is sketchy and the last is no longer true. Recent evidence that even lethal injection can be excruciatingly painful and a rash of vindications of men on death row is also reshaping public opinion.