CRF Blog

Capital punishment in the U.S.

by David De La Torre

In The slow death of the death penalty, The Economist reports on the slow move away from the death penalty in the U.S.

Several factors have driven death sentences and executions down. The simplest may be that America’s homicide rate has declined sharply — from 10.2 per 100,000 people in 1980 to 4.7 in 2012. With that broader decline has come a fall in the most heinous murders; ie, the sort that earn the harshest sentences. As Bob McCulloch, prosecuting attorney for St Louis County, explains: “In Missouri, most [murders] are second-degree…bar-room brawls, or some guys shooting each other over a bad dope deal.” First-degree murders, he says, “rape and murder, killing a police officer — those are all way down.”

Another shift is that most juries can now impose sentences of life without the possibility of parole. In 1972, when the Supreme Court suspended the death penalty (it was reinstated four years later), only seven states allowed such sentences. Now every state bar Alaska gives juries the option… [more]