Death penalty at historic lows despite federal resumption of capital punishment

Hands Of The Prisonersource: NBC News
published: 16 December 2020

The number of death sentences and executions dropped to historic lows in 2020, according to a group that tracks the data, despite the federal government’s move to resume carrying out the death penalty after a hiatus of nearly two decades.

Figures compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center showed that judges and juries handed out 18 new death sentences, the smallest number since executions resumed after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state capital punishment laws in the 1970s. A total of 17 people were executed in 2020, fewer than at any time in the past 37 years.

Part of the reduction was undoubtedly the result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which shut down courthouses and disrupted criminal trials. “But even before the pandemic struck, the nation was on pace for the sixth straight year of near-record law sentences and executions,” the group said.

Only five states carried out executions in 2020 — Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas. Of the five, only Texas conducted more than one, carrying out three. Death sentences were imposed in only seven states — Arizona, California, Florida, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.

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