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States Death Penalty Rates See Decline

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By Kamika Dunlap on December 31, 2009 5:55 AM

Fewer death sentences were handed down in 2009 than any year since the 1976.

States death penalty rates have declined significantly during this decade.

CNN reports that this year the annual number of death sentences in the U.S. has dropped 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 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.

As in previous years, Texas in 2009 led the states in executions.

Some of this year's most high profile executions include John Allen Muhammad, convicted as the so-called "Beltway Sniper," as previously discussed, and Kenneth Biros, who became the first person executed in the U.S. using a single-drug lethal injection.

In Ohio, as previously discussed, death row inmate Romell Broom is appealing his sentence raising questions about whether the state has the legal right try again after its first botched attempt to execute him.

Executions are on hold in California as previously discussed, where a federal judge has ordered review and reform of lethal injection procedures. The state not only has the nation's largest death row population, but a wait list with long delays. The appeals process can last decades.

With 685 sentenced to die by lethal injection, only 13 executions have been carried out in California since capital punishment resumed in 1977.

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

Today, 35 states have the death penalty.

Nebraska became the last death penalty state to formally switch over to lethal injection as the main form of capital punishment.

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