The Bureau of Justice Statistics released its latest report on the status of the death penalty in the U.S., Capital Punishment, 2004, on November 13. According to the report, the nation's death row population, executions, and the number of people given death sentences last year all declined. There were 3,315 people on state and federal death rows at the conclusion of 2004, 63 fewer than in 2003. Last year, 125 people were sentenced to death, the fewest since 1973. Twelve states executed 59 prisoners in 2004, six fewer than in 2003.
According to a new report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), structural and procedural flaws in Alabama’s criminal justice system stack the deck against fair trials and appropriate sentencing for those facing the death penalty. The report, Broken Justice: The Death Penalty in Alabama, details unfair and discriminatory practices in the state’s administration of the death penalty.
Even as the use of the death penalty continued to decline in the United States, the number of murders and the national murder rate dropped in 2004. According to the recently released FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2004, the nation's murder rate fell by 3.3%, declining to 5.5 murders per 100,000 people in 2004. By region, the Northeast, which accounts for less than 1% of all U.S. executions, continued to have the nation's lowest murder rate, 4.2. The Midwest had a murder rate of 4.7, and the murder rate in the West was 5.7. The South, which has carried out more than 80% of all U.S.
Recent research has revealed a close correlation between the U.S. states that historically carried out the most lynchings and the states that today have the highest homicide rates and most death sentences. In a study led by sociologist Steven Messner of the State University of New York at Albany, county data from 10 southern states where historically reliable information on vigilante lynchings between 1882 and 1930 is available were examined (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee).
According to a new study to be published in the Santa Clara Law Review, a defandant in California is more likely to be sentenced to death for killing a white person than for murdering a person of any other race, despite there being more black and Hispanic murder victims in the state. The research also shows that geography plays a key role in whether the death penalty will be sought in a particular case.
A two-year Dallas Morning News
investigation of jury selection in Dallas County has revealed that
prosecutors exclude blacks from juries at more than twice the rate they
reject whites, and that race is the most important personal trait
affecting which jurors prosecutors reject. The paper's review also
found that when potential black and white jurors answered key questions
about criminal justice issues the same way, blacks were rejected at a