in United States at 20-year low: report
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[December 18, 2014]
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Amid growing
concerns about how executions are carried out in the United States, the
number of prison inmates being put to death fell to a 20-year low in
2014, the Death Penalty Information Center said in a report issued on
The 35 executions this year was the lowest since 1994, said the
Washington-based nonprofit, which does not take a position on
whether the death penalty should be abolished, in its annual survey
of national data.
The number of people sentenced to death is also falling, the report
said, reaching 72 by mid-December of 2014 the lowest in 40 years.
The report said that high-profile botched executions in Ohio,
Arizona and especially the execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma
also led to what the center described as "outcry and delays" that
indicate increasing concerns among the public about how the death
penalty is imposed.
In all three of those states, executions by lethal injection using
new drug combinations took longer than expected, with witnesses in
some cases indicating that inmates appeared to be in pain.
In the Oklahoma execution, Lockett lifted his head 13 minutes after
receiving the lethal injection. A doctor called a halt to the
procedure but Lockett died minutes later.
Only seven of 32 states that have the death penalty on the books
executed inmates in 2014, with the bulk coming from just three
states: Texas, Missouri and Florida, the report said.
Richard Dieter, the center's executive director, said evidence in
recent years suggests "the death penalty is becoming irrelevant as a
criminal justice tool."
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Michael Rushford, president of the pro-death penalty Criminal
Justice Legal Foundation, said there is little evidence that juries
are less likely to impose death sentences or that the public at
large is opposed to the death penalty.
The lower number of executions is, in part, a result of fewer death
penalty-eligible crimes being committed in recent years, he said.
The United States had 39 executions in 2013, the fifth- highest
total in the world behind China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia,
according to a report released in May by the human rights
organization Amnesty International.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Alan
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