A Gallup poll revealed that 60% of Americans believe that life in prison without parole is a better approach for a murder conviction than the death penalty. The poll was cited in the Death Penalty Information Center’s 2019 year-end report. “The death penalty has now disappeared from whole regions of the country and continues to erode in others,” the DPIC report said.
Killing an innocent person remains a crucial concern. In 2019, three men condemned to death were exonerated, all after decades behind bars. Meanwhile, Domineque Ray was executed in Alabama despite the fact that his conviction was based solely on the testimony of a witness who was delusional and hallucinating when he accused Ray. No physical evidence linked Ray to the crime.
In Texas, Larry Swearingen was executed based on what his attorney referred to as forensic quackery. Eight post-conviction forensic experts contradicted trial testimony and concluded that the victim died while Swearingen was in police custody. “Our courts and public officials too frequently flat out ignore potentially deadly mistakes, and often take steps to obstruct the truth,” said DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham. “That is one of the reasons why public support for the death penalty continues to fall.”
Other reasons include that of the 22 prisoners executed in 2019, 17 suffered from mental illness or brain damage. Thirteen of the 22 had experienced serious childhood trauma, neglect and abuse.
In May 2019, New Hampshire became the 21st state to abolish the death penalty. The death penalty is increasingly geographically isolated, the DPIC report said. “With New Hampshire’s abolition, no New England state has the death penalty, and the only northeastern state with capital punishment — Pennsylvania — has a moratorium on executions,” the DPIC reported. “Indiana had its tenth year without an execution, making it the 32nd state with no death penalty at all or no executions in more than a decade… For the fifth straight year, no state west of Texas conducted an execution.”
Less than 1 percent of all counties in the United States imposed death sentences. Two counties imposed more than one: Cuyahoga, Ohio (5) and Riverside, California (2).
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