The annual crime report released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed a decline in the national murder rate. The rate dropped 4.7% in 2008 compared to 2007. Despite a regional decline, the South still has the highest murder rate among the four geographic regions: 6.6 murders per 100,000 people, higher than the national rate of 5.4. The Northeast still maintains the lowest murder rate at 4.2. There were 16,272 murders or non-negligent manslaughters in 2008, according to the report. (FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2008 (published Sept. 2009)). The South has accounted for over 80% of executions since 1976 (971 of 1176 executions), while the Northeast accounted for less than 1% (4 of 1176). Of the 20 states with the highest murder rates in the country, all of them had the death penalty in 2008.

Blacks and whites were victims of murder in about equal numbers in 2008, with each accounting for about 48% of murder victims. In death penalty cases resulting in executions, however, 78% of the victims in the underlying murder where white. Studies have shown that defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty if the victim in the underlying murder was white than if the victim was black.

(Posted Oct. 13, 2009). See Murder Rates and Race.