Capital Punishment Declines, But Texas Executes the Most Prisoners in 2013

Texas executed more prisoners than any other state in 2013, but the use of capital punishment declines here as well as in the rest of the U.S. according to a new study.

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

The report cited a shortage of drugs used in lethal injections, high court costs and a shift in public opinion on the trend as reasons why the death penalty is being used less and less.

“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 found that just 60 percent of Americans now approve of the death penalty, the lowest level in 40 years.

Texas remains, in the words of a PBS report the “ground zero for capital punishment.”

Of the 39 executions carried out in 2013, Texas carried out 16 of them. However, the number of executions carried out in the state has declined about 80 percent over the past 14 years.

Texas handed out 48 death sentences in 1999. This year, it had just nine. It was the sixth year in a row that Texas had less than 10 death sentences.

Elsewhere more states are abolishing capital punishment. Maryland became the 18th state to discontinue its use in May 2013. Five other states — New Mexico, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut — repealed capital punishment in the last six years since 2007.

Florida saw the second highest number of executions. In 2013 the death penalty was 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. Some states including Tennessee, South Carolina and Louisiana, saw no executions in 2013.

Texas has struggled with lethal injection issues after some European-based manufacturers banned prisons in the United States from using their drugs in executions.

Lundbeck, which is based in Denmark, is one of the companies to ban its chemical from executions. It manufactures pentobarbital, the most commonly used drug – either as a single drug, or in combination with others – in the execution of prisoners.

The changes mean states are now experimenting with new drug combinations, a practice which can mean the use of drugs banned by larger companies, according to a recent investigation last month by CNN’s Deborah Feyerick.

In Texas a lawsuit has been filed by several death row inmates claiming the state corrections department falsified a prescription for the drug pentobarbital using an alias.

Earlier this year a report from the American Bar Association claimed Texas falls short in the way it administers the death penalty.

“Notably, the Lone Star State appears out of step with better practices implemented in other capital jurisdictions, failing to rely on scientifically reliable evidence and processes in the administration of the death penalty and providing the public with inadequate information to understand and evaluate capital punishment in the state,” the ABA stated.

The report suggests there are many inherent dangers in the system. If you are facing a capital crime it’s important to hire a Dallas criminal defense lawyer who will provide vigorous legal representation. Contact Broden & Mickelsen, LLP.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.