24 August 2005 :the number of people sentenced to death last year in the United States fell to the lowest level since the US Supreme Court reinstated the penalty in 1976.
There were 125 people sent to death row in 2004, down from 144 the previous year and the sixth consecutive annual decline, according to figures compiled by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. In 1998, 300 people received death sentences.
Miriam Gohara, assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said one major cause for the decline is high profile exonerations based on DNA evidence. She said that jurors are less willing to impose the penalty when they see that the system occasionally fails.
The high court has issued a series of decisions narrowing the death penalty, putting a stop to the execution of juveniles, the insane and the mentally retarded. There also are more jurisdictions where jurors are given options other than death, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.