Thirty-seven people were executed in nine states, the lowest total in 14 years and a 62% drop from the 98 death sentences carried out in 1999, according to statistics compiled by the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.
A total of 111 death sentences were handed down, the fewest since executions resumed in 1976, according to the center, a repository of reports and research run largely by opponents of capital punishment. The total declined from 115 in 2007 and was barely a third of the numbers condemned some years in the 1990s.
The drop in executions is attributable, in part, to a hold placed on the nation's executions while the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed a widely applicable legal issue that didn't end up posing a barrier to executions. But, the drop in death penalty sentences reflects changing public opinion as well as relatively low murder rates.
The coincidence of record low numbers of death penalty sentences and executions, and the record low number of abortions in the U.S. (noted in yesterday's posting) will make a nice Christmas card for Catholic Church leaders who oppose both the death penalty and abortion.