Fewer states carried out executions in 2012 than at any time in the last 20 years, according to a new report by an anti-death penalty group.

Nine states out of 33 that have the death penalty on the books — Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Ohio, Florida, South Dakota, Delaware and Idaho — sponsored executions in 2012, according to the December 18 report from Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

The number of executions didn’t change this year. As in 2011, 43 death sentences were carried out. But the number of executions has dropped by 56 percent since 1999.

Since 1990, the lowest number of state executions occurred in 1991, at 14, according to DPIC’s website. In the last five years, the lowest number took place in 2008, with 37 death sentences carried out.

Of the states that carried out capital punishment this year, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Arizona had more than three-quarters of them. With 15 executions, Texas carried out the most death sentences this year. The state has had the most executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Arizona, Oklahoma and Mississippi followed Texas with six executions each. Ohio and Florida each had three. South Dakota hadtwo. And Delaware and Idaho had one each.

Also, in 2012, 78 individuals were sentenced to death, a 75 percent decrease since 1996. Of those death sentences, almost two-thirds of them were handed down in Florida, California, Texas and Alabama.

The statistics show the “marginalization and reconsideration of the death penalty,” said Richard Dieter, the DPIC’s executive director and the author of the report. He predicted that more states will take up the question of death penalty repeal in the years ahead.

The advent of the life without parole sentence and DNA testing are helping to cause the drop in executions and death sentences, Dieter said. Execution is an “unreliable punishment” that fewer and fewer prosecutors deem useful, he added.


Andrew Ramonas is a reporter for The National Law Journal, a Legal affiliate based in New York.