U.S. Death Sentences Decline for Third Year
Monday, December 16, 2002; Page A09
A total of 155 inmates in the United States received a death sentence in 2001, the smallest number in 28 years, according to a Justice Department report released yesterday.
The third straight annual decline occurred at a time of growing national debate about capital punishment, sparked in part by recent exonerations of death row inmates because of DNA evidence and calls for more state moratoriums on executions.
The report by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics found a steady decline in the number of inmates who received a death sentence, with 304 in 1998, 282 in 1999 and 229 in 2000.
The number put on death row last year represented the lowest figure since the 1973 total of 44 inmates.
The death sentences for 90 inmates were set aside or overturned last year, according to the report.
It said 66 death row inmates were executed last year by 15 states and the federal government. There have been 70 executions in 2002, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a group opposed to capital punishment.
Of those put to death last year, 63 were men and three were women, according to the report. Forty-eight of those executed were white, 17 were black and one was an American Indian.
The report found that those executed last year had been on death row an average of nearly 12 years. All were executed by lethal injection.
At the end of last year, 3,581 inmates were on death row in prisons across the country, 20 fewer than at the end of 2000.
Of the 38 states with capital punishment, California had the most death row inmates, at 603, by the end of 2001, followed by Texas at 453 and Florida at 372.
The report said that of all the inmates on death row at the end of 2001, the youngest was 19 and the oldest was 86.