But there’s good reason to think that the efforts in those states are capital punishment’s death rattle. In a large and growing part of the country, the death penalty is becoming a relic of the past. Delaware’s Supreme Court just ruled capital punishment unconstitutional. Nebraska’s legislature repealed the death penalty, even overriding a veto in the process (though it may be resurrected with a ballot measure this fall). As NPR reported last December:
The death penalty is in decline no matter the measure, a new study released by the Death Penalty Information Center has found.The report found that 28 people were executed this year, the lowest since 1991. The number of death sentences dropped by 33 percent.Only six states executed convicts during the year, and Texas, Missouri and Georgia accounted for 86 percent of the executions.
There have been 15 executions so far this year, and just two since April. Only five states have carried out executions. Georgia and Texas alone account for 12 of the 15 executions.
According to Gallup polling, while three in five Americans (61 percent) still support the death penalty, that figure also marks a 40-year low. Pew polling also shows a 40-year low, with support even lower, at 56 percent. Among those ages 18 to 29, it’s at 51 percent.
Stevenson isn’t the sort to take a bow, but the tireless work from groups such as EJI, the Innocence Project and the Death Penalty Information Center are a big reason for all of this — both in changing public opinion and in slowing down the machinery of capital punishment. You could argue that the progress has been too slow. But there’s no question that there has been progress.