Death Sentences at Historic Lows

    The execution room is shown Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, at the Oregon State Penitentiary, in Salem, Ore. The Oregon Department of Corrections is preparing for its first execution in 14 years as death row inmate Gary Haugen faces lethal injection on Dec. 6. Officials are giving reporters a look Friday at the execution room at the state penitentiary in Salem. Haugen was already serving time for one killing when he was sentenced to death in 2007 for killing another inmate. He has said repeatedly he wants to cut the appeals process. Death penalty opponents still hope to head off the execution. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

    Rick Bowmer / AP Photo

    It might matter little to critics of capital punishment that contend it should not happen at all, but the trend against executions is unmistakable: death sentences have taken a historic drop of about 75 percent over the last 15 years, and 2011 was the first time in more than three decades that fewer than 100 people have been sent on death row. According to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center, 78 people were handed death sentences in 2011, down from 315 in 1996. And there were 43 executions this year, including the controversial of Georgia inmate Troy Davis in September, down from 98 in 1999.

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