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NC Sees Death Penalty Cases Decline

Death penalty cases have dwindled in North Carolina over the past decade.

Several reasons have factored into the decline of the death sentence including prosecutors seeking death sentences less often and juries voting less frequently for death penalties, the News Observer reports.

In addition, there are higher costs associated with capital trials, which have prompted calls for abolishment of the death penalty.

To date, there are 35 states where capital punishment is allowed - but used less and less frequently. Nebraska became the last death penalty state to formally switch over to lethal injection as the main form of capital punishment.

As previously discussed, states' death penalty rates have seen a decline.

Last year, fewer death sentences were handed down in the U.S. than in any year since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court, in 1976.

Legislators say the states' death penalty rates have declined mainly due to the high costs associated with incarcerating and handling the appeals by death row inmates, which can take decades.

In addition, eleven states are now considering abolishing executions.

There were 106 death sentences issued in 2009, compared to 235 issued in 2000.

Executions are also on hold in California, Maryland and Kentucky, pending challenges to lethal injection procedures.

Also in North Carolina, as with many other states, the science and creation of innocence inquiry commissions and revelations of wrongful convictions have triggered questions about fairness in death penalty cases.

Last year, the state legislature adopted the Racial Justice Act, which gives all death row inmates and anyone facing a death penalty trial an opportunity this year to challenge their case on the basis of racial biases.