Death Sentences Decline in California
The number of people sentenced to death each year in California has declined by nearly 40% since the 1990s. According to the California Department of Corrections, on average, the state sent 35 people to death row each year during the 1990s. Since 2000, that number has declined to an average of 21 annually. California has the largest death row in the country.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George attributed some of the decline to more selective charging by district attorneys and to the fact that juries may be "exercising some discretion about imposing the death penalty." George Williamson, co-chair of the Capital Case Litigation Committee, agreed that a shift in juror attitudes has contributed to the steep decline in death sentences. "Jury attitudes have helped drive (the sentencing) number down. When we (pick juries), it's very clear that the number of people who have problems with the death penlaty has increased pretty significantly than what we saw in the 1980s and 1990s," Williamson said. (Sacramento Bee, February 18, 2006).