The Death Penalty in 1995: Year End Report

Posted on Dec 15, 1995

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Executions in the United States are reaching record numbers. Even without the most recent wave of attempts to curtail death row appeals, the number of people put to death has been steadily rising. Contrary to the popular misconception that death row inmates are granted “endless appeals,” there have been 313 executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. This year alone there have been 56 executions, more than any other year in the modern era.

Moreover, the pace of executions is also quickening. It took 12 years after the Supreme Court allowed executions to resume to reach the first 100 executions, 5 years to execute the next 100 inmates, and less than two and a half years to achieve the third 100 executions. The prospect of over 100 executions per year appears likely in the near future.

This acceleration in carrying out the death penalty has been accompanied by a “deregulation of death” — that is, a dismantling of the legal protections traditionally afforded those facing the state’s ultimate punishment. As the year closes, this erosion of the safeguards against mistaken executions is itself accelerating as Congress prepares to drastically cut the opportunity for death row defendants to obtain federal review and as it completely defunds the death penalty resource centers which had been commissioned to assure death row representation.