Editorials

Death penalty sentences lowest in 40 years

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

The number of people executed in the United States in 2015 dropped to the lowest level since 1991 as states impose fewer death sentences and defendants in capital cases have access to better legal help.
The number of people executed in the United States in 2015 dropped to the lowest level since 1991 as states impose fewer death sentences and defendants in capital cases have access to better legal help. AP

The days of Texas and capital punishment being synonymous are numbered.

Only two Texas trials ended with a death sentence verdict in 2015, the lowest in 40 years, according to a year-end report from the Death Penalty Information Center. The nation’s number of death penalty sentences followed the same declining trend.

“With less than two weeks remaining in 2015, and few cases pending, 14 states and the federal government have imposed 49 new death sentences. This was a 33% decline from the 73 death sentences imposed in 2014 — itself already a 40-year low,” the report says.

The death penalty has been losing favor with juries and the public, with more “life without parole” sentences dealt instead of capital punishment.

“These are not just annual blips in statistics, but reflect a broad change in attitudes about capital punishment across the country,” Robert Dunham, DPIC’s executive director and the author of the report said in a news release.

Texans have started to realize how final an execution can be. They want a better way to serve justice.

Life-without-parole cases are the acceptable replacement. Texas prosecutors know it, and so do juries.

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