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Use of Death Penalty is on the Decline Across the United States


The death penalty is the ultimate punishment for a crime but it has been used sparingly in South Carolina in recent years.

South Carolina is not alone in using the death penalty less for aggravated murder. A recent study found a shortage in lethal injection chemicals has contributed to declining use of capital punishment across the United States.

The annual report from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) found there were 39 executions in the United States in 2013. The figure is a 10 percent reduction on the previous year.

"Twenty years ago, use of the death penalty was increasing. Now it is declining by almost every measure," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, and the author of the report.

An article in Time Magazine suggested the decline in the use of the death penalty also "reflects growing sentiment among Americans to end capital punishment." A recent Gallup poll showed that just 60 percent of Americans now approve of the death penalty, the lowest level in 40 years.

While many states in the south still use the death penalty, it continues to fall out of favor in some northern states.

Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty in May, 2013. Five other states — New York, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and Connecticut — repealed capital punishment in the last six years, according to DPIC.

Texas traditionally carries out the most executions and 2013 was no exception. Of the 39 executions, Texas carried out 16. However, the number of executions carried out in Texas has declined about 80 percent over the past 14 years.

In 2013 the death penalty was also carried out seven times in Florida, on six occasions in Oklahoma, three times in Ohio, twice in Arizona and Missouri and on one occasion in Alabama, Georgia and Virginia. South Carolina, Tennessee and Louisiana, recorded no executions at all in 2013.

The last execution in South Carolina was that of 36-year-old Jeffrey Motts in 2011. He was sentenced to death in 2007 for strangling inmate Charles Martin after an argument in their cell at Perry Correctional Institution in upstate Greenville County, South Carolina.

States such as Texas are grappling with new lethal injection protocols after European-based manufacturers banned prisons in the United States from using their drugs in executions.

They include Danish-based Lundbeck, which manufactures pentobarbital, the most commonly used chemical - either as a single drug, or in combination with others – in the execution of prisoners.

The changes have prompted states to seek out new drug combinations or to seek out compounding pharmacies that manufacture variations of the drugs banned by the larger companies, according to a recent investigation last month by CNN's Deborah Feyerick.

A pending lawsuit against Texas filed by several death row inmates claims the state corrections department falsified a prescription for the drug pentobarbital using an alias.

South Carolina has executed few inmates in recent years, even though violent crime remains higher here than in much of the rest of the country. A recent study found South Carolina has the fifth highest violent crime rate in the country.

While South Carolina may be putting fewer prisoners to death for the most serious of crimes, being convicted of any violent crime can have a devastating effect on your future. Call our experienced South Carolina criminal defense attorneys if you have been charged with a violent crime at 803.748.9990.

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