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December 16, 2022

DPIC releases year-end report emphasizing botched executions and no 2022 increases in death penalty support

The Death Penalty Information Center this morning released this annual report under the heading "The Death Penalty in 2022: Year End Report; Public Support for Death Penalty at Near-Record Low Despite Perception that Violent Crime is Up."  Here is the start of the report's introduction, with lots and lots of interesting capital punishment data and discussion thereafter:

In a year awash with incendiary political advertising that drove the public’s perception of rising crime to record highs, public support for capital punishment and jury verdicts for death remained near fifty-year lows.  Defying conventional political wisdom, nearly every measure of change — from new death sentences imposed and executions conducted to public opinion polls and election results — pointed to the continuing durability of the more than 20-year sustained decline of the death penalty in the United States.

The Gallup crime survey, administered in the midst of the midterm elections while the capital trial for the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida was underway, found that support for capital punishment remained within one percentage point of the half-century lows recorded in 2020 and 2021.  The 22 new death sentences imposed in 2022 are fewer than in any year before the pandemic, and just 4 higher than the record lows of the prior two years.  With the exception of the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, the 18 executions in 2022 are the fewest since 1991.

One by one, states continued their movement away from the death penalty.  On December 13, 2022, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced the commutation of the capital sentences of all 17 death-row prisoners and instructed corrections officials to begin dismantling the state’s execution chamber.  The commutations completed what she called the “near abolition” of the death penalty by the state legislature in 2019.  Thirty-seven states — nearly three-quarters of the country — have now abolished the death penalty or not carried out an execution in more than a decade.

For the eighth consecutive year, fewer than 30 people were executed and fewer than 50 people were sentenced to death.  The five-year average of new death sentences, 27* per year, is the lowest in 50 years.  The five-year average of executions, 18.6 per year, is the lowest in more than 30 years, a 74% decline over the course of one decade.  Death row declined in size for the 21st consecutive year, even before Governor Brown commuted the sentences of the 17 prisoners on Oregon’s death row.

2022 could be called “the year of the botched execution” because of the high number of states with failed or bungled executions. Seven of the 20 execution attempts were visibly problematic — an astonishing 35% — as a result of executioner incompetence, failures to follow protocols, or defects in the protocols themselves.  On July 28, 2022, executioners in Alabama took three hours to set an IV line before putting Joe James Jr. to death, the longest botched lethal injection execution in U.S. history.  Executions were put on hold in Alabama, Tennessee, Idaho, and South Carolina when the states were unable to follow execution protocols.  Idaho scheduled an execution without the drugs to carry it out.  One execution did not occur in Oklahoma because the state did not have custody of the prisoner and had not made arrangements for his transfer before scheduling him to be put to death.

December 16, 2022 at 08:04 AM | Permalink


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