USA: Annual report of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) – Death penalty continues to decline
The US states of Texas and Florida accounted for more than half of the executions in 2023. According to the latest annual report from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) in Washington D.C., six prisoners were executed in Florida and eight in Texas.
Only three other states carried out executions in 2023: Alabama (two), Missouri (four) and Oklahoma (four), according to a Dec. 1 press release from the DPIC. The last time so few states carried out executions was in 2016 and 20 years ago, according to “The Death Penalty in 2023: Year End Report”.
The imposition of death sentences is also declining: in 2023, 21 people were sentenced to death. The sentences were handed down in seven states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas. The figures are as of December 1.
This year was the ninth consecutive year with fewer than 30 executions and fewer than 50 death sentences. However, at 24, the number of executions in 2023 is up from the 18 executions in 2022. The press release states that the increase compared to the previous year is due to the resumption of executions in Florida after a long break.
It coincides with the presidential campaign of Governor Ron DeSantos, who is seeking the highest office in the USA. The six executions in Florida were the highest number since 2014, and five new death sentences were handed down, the highest number of any state this year. And Florida could impose more death sentences following the passage of two laws in April.
One law abolished the requirement of a unanimous jury recommendation for the imposition of the death penalty. Now only eight of the twelve jurors have to agree. The other law authorizes the death penalty for sexual violence against a child under the age of 12. The law is in direct violation of a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the death penalty for child rape is unconstitutional in cases that do not result in death, the report states.
Despite the increase in state-sanctioned executions, popular criticism of the death penalty is on the rise. For the first time since polling of Americans on the death penalty began in 2000, a Gallup poll found that more people believe the death penalty is administered unjustly (50%) than justly (47%). According to the poll, support for the death penalty is at its lowest level since 1972 (53%), down from 80% in the 1990s.
According to data analyzed by the DPIC, 79% of the 2023 death row inmates executed had a disability or impairment, including severe mental illness, brain injury, a developmental brain disorder or IQ that falls within the range of mental retardation, and/or chronic severe childhood trauma, neglect and/or abuse.
The 2023 people executed were on average 54 years old and had spent an average of 23 years on death row – the highest since the death penalty was reinstated in the US in 1976.