The Death Penalty Information Center recently published its annual report on executions in the U.S. The statistics are telling — as is the reporting about the statistics — and timely. We found it dovetailed nicely with another story. More on that in a bit.
Nationwide, DPIC says, there were 35 executions in 2014. Not only is that more than a 60 percent drop from 1999’s high, but the country hasn’t seen a number this low for 20 years. The number of death sentences handed out is also on the decline: just 72 in 2014, the fewest since 1974. And the number of inmates on death row declined for the thirteenth consecutive year.
As far as the individual states were concerned, only seven of the 32 states that have the death penalty executed anyone last year. Texas and Missouri tied for first place with 10 executions each, while Florida put eight prisoners to death. These three states accounted for 80 percent of all executions in 2014.
North Carolina, of course, did not carry out any executions in 2014. The state hasn’t carried out an execution for the past eight years. The death penalty here has been in limbo, thanks in part to lawsuits about execution protocols and questions about the liability and culpability of doctors that participate in the lethal injections. Some of the credit, too, can go to the short-lived Racial Justice Act and the activities of the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission.
The Racial Justice Act, in fact, came to mind when we read through DPIC’s report. The organization found that while two-thirds of the inmates executed were members of minorities, only 17 percent of the victims in the cases were black. DPIC points out that nearly half of all murder victims in the country are black.
Again, we were reading the report when we came across this information. We didn’t see it in any North Carolina newspapers, and it was buried in the article in The New York Times.
The press missed or downplayed another piece of information from the report. We’ll explain in our next post.
Death Penalty Information Center, “The Death Penalty in 2014: Year End Report,” December 2014
WCNC-NBC Charlotte, “3 people receive death sentence in NC in 2014,” Jan. 2, 2015