Monday, April 25, 2005

CONTACT: Brenda Bowser
Office: (202) 293-6970, x215
Cell: (301) 906-4460


WASHINGTON, DC – In 2004, 125 people were sentenced to death in the United States, the fewest number since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Death sentences have declined by more than 50% since the late 1990’s and the numbers in 2004 represented a drop of 13% compared to 2003. The number of sentences was down in every area of the country, though federal death penalty sentences showed a marked increase in 2004. By comparison, 320 people were sentenced to death in 1996.

“The many problems associated with capital punishment are clearly impacting the number of people sentenced to death each year,” said Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). “Persistent questions about whether the death penalty is applied accurately and fairly have resulted in greater skepticism about this practice among the public, capital jurors, and many state and national officials.”

These same factors have also contributed to declines in executions, death row population, and public support for the death penaly. In New York, the last state to adopt the death penalty in 1995, similar concerns led state legislators to reject capital punishment two weeks ago.

The sentencing figures for 2004 are drawn from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s quarterly report Death Row USA. The Bureau of Justice Statistics will release its official number of death sentences for 2004 later this year. A spreadsheet containing the sentencing figures for each state is here in PDF format for your review.

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