According to a report from the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been only 39 executions in the United States this year, only the second time that number has been below 40 since 1994 and down 4 from last year's 43. This is additionally a decline of 60 percent since 1999 and the number of death sentences given hovered at a number (80) that, other than last year's 77, is the lowest since 1973. In fact, the number of death sentences has declined 75 percent since 1996.
Not surprisingly, Texas led states in the number of executions, representing more than 40 percent (16 total) of the executions nationwide. Combined with Florida, the two states are responsible for the majority of executions (59 percent). Florida had 7 total. There are 18 states who have abolished the use of the death penalty as a punishment.
There are some positives if you aren't a fan of the needles. Texas, according to the report, sentences fewer than 10 people to death in 2013. By comparison, that number was 48 in 1999. But, it's not all positive, particularly for those of us who live in Harris County.
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According to the report, only 2 percent of counties in the entire country represent the vast majority of all death penalty cases and death row inmates. At the top of that list is Harris County. And we lead by a mile.
Since 1975, there have been 115 inmates executed from Harris County. The next closest county is Dallas County at 50. There are only 5 counties with more than 20 executions since 1975. If you were to add on Montgomery and Jefferson, two counties within close proximity to Harris, you would tack on another 30 executions.
There are currently 101 death row inmates from Harris County. This is dwarfed by Los Angeles County and its whopping 248, but part of the reason is because California has not executed anyone for seven years.
An even more grim note from the report indicates the reason for the decline in executions in 2013 is likely due to a shortage of the drug used for lethal injections.