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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 16:42 GMT
US reports decline in executions
Witnesses surround a gurney
Lethal injection is the US's most prevalent form of execution
The number of people sentenced to death in the United States and the number executed fell again in 2004, according to the latest government figures.

Twelve states executed 59 people last year, while 125 people convicted of murder received a death sentence.

The number of new prisoners on death row has fallen for the last four years.

This was the result of a US murder rate that is at its lowest for 40 years, said Tracy Snell, co-author of the Bureau of Justice Statistics report.

EXECUTIONS IN 2004
Texas: 23
Ohio: 7
Oklahoma: 6
Virginia: 5
North Carolina: 4
South Carolina: 4
Alabama: 2
Florida: 2
Georgia: 2
Nevada: 2
Arkansas: 1
Maryland: 1
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

One death penalty advocate said the threat of harsh punishment was responsible for that falling rate.

"There are less murders, less murder victims and less death sentences because, in our view, we have been giving this problem the right medicine," Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the Death Penalty Information Center - which opposes the death penalty - said jurors were increasingly reluctant to recommend the death penalty.

Richard Dieter, head of the DPIC, cited the effects of recent cases where death row prisoners have been freed following media or legal investigations or the use of DNA evidence to exonerate those wrongly convicted.

The increased availability of life-without-parole sentences as an alternative to capital punishment also had an impact on the figures, he said.

Lethal injection

California, Florida and Texas together account for 44% of the nation's death row population, according to the report.

As of 31 December 2004, there were 3,315 people on death row, compared to 3,378 a year earlier.

The 59 inmates executed in 2004 had spent an average of 11 years on death row and of those executed, 36 were white, 19 black, three Hispanic, and one was Asian.

One inmate was electrocuted, the rest were put to death by lethal injection.


SEE ALSO:
Death penalty 'at record levels'
04 Apr 05 |  Americas
The man who wants to be executed
25 Jan 05 |  Americas
Death row reversal becomes film
12 Aug 04 |  Americas
Calls for US death penalty review
12 Jan 03 |  Americas


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