HOUSTON – Public support for and use of the death penalty in 2022 continued its lowest level for more than a decade in the US, and most executions carried out during the year were “bored” or too controversial, the annual report on the death penalty says. .
There were 18 homicides in the US in 2022, the fewest in any epidemic year since 1991. There were 11 homicides last year. Except for the epidemic years, the 20 death sentences handed down in 20 were the fewest of any year in the US in half a century, according to a report by the Washington, DC-based Death Penalty Information Center.
“All signs point to a continuation of the death penalty and a long-term shift away from the death penalty,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit, which does not take a position on the death penalty but has criticized the way countries execute people. .
In the US, 37 states have abolished the death penalty or not in more than a decade. On Tuesday, the Governor of Oregon, Mr. Kate Brown, revoked the sentences of all 17 prisoners who were sentenced to death to live in prison without parole. Oregon last executed an inmate in 1997. There have been no state executions since January 2021 following the Trump administration’s historic use of the death penalty. In July 2021, the Department of Justice ordered a moratorium on federal executions.
The report called 2022 “The Year of the Murderer” as seven out of 20 attempted murders in the US appeared problematic or took too long. This has encouraged other countries to suspend them so that procedures and protocols can be reviewed.
Serious complications were reported with the execution of the three in Arizona as corrections officers struggled to find the right IV lines to administer the lethal injection.
In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of the state’s criminal justice system last month after three failed lethal injections, including two in 2022 involving problems with the intravenous lines used to administer the drugs.
Other concerns about the execution included a South Carolina judge’s ruling in September that called the state’s newly created military, as well as the use of the electric chair, illegal. The state Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the matter next month.
In April, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee banned lethal injections in his state because the drugs used in executions had not been tested. The attention forced Lee to call off the execution of inmate Oscar Smith, just one hour before he died last April.
Dunham said she believes ongoing cases of executions or state law enforcement are helping to erode public support for the death penalty. Gallup polls show public support for the death penalty has fallen slightly over the past 28 years, falling from 80% in 1994 to 55% this year.
“There are a few states that are trying to implement the death penalty. But they are acting in ways that … their behavior is undermining public confidence that states can be trusted with the death penalty,” Dunham said.
While five of the 18 homicides that occurred in 2022 were in Texas, that is below the national record. In 2000, executions in Texas topped 40, according to this year’s report by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Kristin Houlé Cuellar, the union’s executive director, said she believes Texas’ “time for excessive use of the death penalty is over” as prosecutors will continue to use longer sentences to hold people accountable.
Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University in New York, said she is not surprised by the decline in use and public support for the death penalty. He mentions as reasons: many people are learning about the various problems in killing people, uncertainty about whether it prevents crime and the increasing number of prisoners released.
“Any kind of prediction about the future would indicate that the death penalty will be limited to a few states. Over time, there will be more pressure in those states to abolish the death penalty,” Denno said.
Mr. Dunham said he believes the number of extrajudicial killings has contributed greatly to the movement among lawmakers, especially conservatives, to express skepticism about the death penalty.
In Oklahoma, GOP state Rep. Kevin McDugle, a self-described supporter of the death penalty, became one of the strongest supporters of death row inmate Richard Glossip after concerns were raised about evidence being lost or destroyed and police bias. Glossip’s execution was delayed last month.
In Texas, GOP state Rep. Jeff Leach helped lead a team of lawmakers who believe new evidence shows death row inmate Melissa Lucio did not fatally beat her daughter. Leach and other lawmakers visited Lucio on death row before his late execution in April.
In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this year, Leach said he hopes law enforcement can work to make sure “there’s no chance we’re killing an innocent Texan.”
“For me to be against the existence of the death penalty in Texas would be an incredible understatement,” Leach said.
Michael Benza, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said the political changes surrounding the death penalty have made it easier for policymakers to have meaningful discussions about the death penalty.
“And they have a problem with it when they really see what is happening. I think politicians are wondering if this is the right thing to do,” said Benza.
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