Death Penalty Information Center finds only 2 percent of counties carry out executions.
Only 2 percent of U.S. counties account for 52 percent of executions since 1976, and 56 percent of the current death row population, a new report finds.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a small number of counties where prosecutors have made the death penalty a high priority are driving capital punishment usage. Though Texas has built a reputation as ground zero for capital punishment, only four counties (Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Bexar) account for almost half of all its executions, while only representing 34 percent of the state's population.
Though 18 states have abolished the death penalty, the study found only nine states carried out executions in 2012 and expected fewer to do so in 2013. Only 20 percent of counties had inmates on death row and 85 percent hadn't had an execution in 45 years.
"The relatively few prosecutors who drive the death penalty create enormous burdens for those outside their district. The rest of the country is paying a high tariff on behalf of the small percentage of counties that are actually using the death penalty," Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center and author of the report, said in a statement.
A 2008 Urban Institute report found in Maryland, for example, a case in which prosecutors successfully argue for the death penalty will cost about $3 million on average. Cases where prosecutors were unable to secure a death sentence cost $1.8 million. In May 2012, however, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill abolishing capital punishment.
There were 8,300 death sentences nationwide carried out between 1973 and the end of 2011. Dieter estimated if each case cost $3 million, taxpayers have spend roughly $25 billion on death penalty cases.
There is also a massive regional disparity, as southern states have accounted for 82 percent of the country's executions since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, while the northeast accounts for fewer than 1 percent.
Despite the massive disparity, public support behind the death penalty has only moderately shifted in recent years. Pew Research Center found in 2012 that although only 62 percent of Americans supported capital punishment, down from 78 percent in the mid 1990's, more than half the population has backed the death penalty since the 1930s. The mid 1960's was the only time since 1936 where there was more opposition to the death penalty than support.