Report: U.S. Executions Dipped in 2013

New death sentences are on a multiyear downswing, report says.

Robert Gleason Jr., left, was executed on Jan. 16, 2013, in the electric chair, right, at  Greensville Correction Center in Jarratt, Va. Gleason strangled two inmates in the state's highest security prisons and vowed to keep killing unless he was put to death. All other American executions in 2013 were performed using lethal injections.
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U.S. courts produced 79 new death sentences and OK-ed 39 actual executions in 2013, signifying a continued multiyear decline in the use of capital punishment, a year-end report says.

The non-profit Death Penalty Information Center released the report Thursday detailing the apparent decline in death penalty popularity.

"Twenty years ago, use of the death penalty was increasing. Now it is declining by almost every measure," said DPIC Executive Director Richard Dieter in a statement.

The number of executions in 2013 was the lowest since 2008 and the second-lowest annual total since the early 1990s.

Texas led the nation, killing 16 convicted criminals in 2013. Florida followed with seven state-sanctioned killings. Oklahoma killed six prisoners, Ohio slew three and Arizona and Missouri each took the lives of two people. Alabama, Georgia and Virginia each killed one inmate.

Perhaps more telling than the decline in executions is the number of new death sentences. There were two more sentences in 2013 than in 2012, but the total is down dramatically from the mid-1990s when as many as 315 new death sentences were approved each year.

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The DPIC notes the number of new death sentences in Texas is far lower than a decade ago. In fact, fewer than 10 new death sentences were issued by Texas courts in each of the past six years, the report says. By contrast, Texas juries produced 48 new death sentences in 1999.

Traditionally noose-ready states like Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia produced no new death sentences in 2013, the report says.

Elaine de Leon, communications director of DPIC, told U.S. News the group doesn't expect any additional executions in 2013.

"Generally [they are] scheduled ahead of time," she said, "And there's not a lot of activity at this point in this year."

Although 60 percent of Americans support the death penalty, according to a Gallup poll released in October, that figure is the lowest since 1972.

In 2013 Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty. Capital punish is an option for federal and military courts. Executions were halted 1972-76 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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