A recent report reflected some good news about capital punishment in the United States. Executions in the U.S. continued to decrease in 2010, with the 46 death sentences carried out representing a 12% drop from the year before. This figure is just over half the 85 people executed a decade ago in 2000. Also, just 114 people were added to death rows around the country this year, just under half the number from 2000, said the report by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a Washington-based group that opposes capital punishment. However you feel personally about the death penalty, it is hard to deny that less cases of capital punishment overall is a positive thing. The center’s report pointed out the encouraging consequences of a reduction in capital cases. The capital appeals process can be expensive, causing many lawmakers to re-examine the financial consequences of pursing death sentences in a weakened economy, according to the report. Illinois officials reported $100 million had been spent statewide in the past seven years on death penalty prosecutions, despite not executing anyone in 12 years. "Whether it’s concerns about the high costs of the death penalty at a time when budgets are being slashed, the risks of executing the innocent, unfairness, or other reasons, the nation continued to move away from the death penalty in 2010," said Richard Dieter, the center’s executive director who wrote the report.
Twelve states carried out executions in 2010, most of them in the South. Texas led the country with 17 executions, while Oklahoma carried out what is likely the last execution of the year when John David Duty was put down Thursday. According to DPIC, 40 execution dates were stayed in 2010, many over whether inmates had been given a full review of their claims. The Supreme Court is currently considering an appeal from a convicted Texas killer who seeks DNA analysis of evidence not originally tested from the crime scene, which he says will exonerate him. The justices will decide whether capital inmates have a basic federal civil right to have forensic evidence reviewed late in the appeal process.
"There has been a lot more public attention as the technology evolves about getting DNA tests," said Thomas Goldstein, a legal analyst and founder of scotusblog.com. "And so far, the Supreme Court has narrowly closed the door to challenging your criminal conviction directly based on the idea: ‘Hey, there’s evidence I now want tested."
"This is a different lawsuit. It says: ‘I’m going to file a lawsuit for my civil rights to be able to prove my innocence.’ The question will be: Will that kind of be a backdoor way to getting at this critical question of whether someone might be up on death row or life in prison forever for a crime they may not have committed."
A ruling in the case is expected in the first half of 2011. Will 2011 be the year when America ends the death penalty for everyone?