Number of Executions Declines
The Associated Press
Last year, a dozen states executed 59 prisoners, six fewer than in 2003, according to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Alabama executed two convicted killers in 2004, compared to 23 in Texas, seven in Ohio, six in Oklahoma and five in Virginia. Alabama has carried out four executions in 2005.
Last week, The Birmingham News, the state's largest newspaper, began six days of editorials arguing Alabama should do away with the death penalty, citing numerous problems with a system it says is broken.
The government report also said 125 people, including five women, who were convicted of murder received a death sentence last year. That was the smallest number since 1973.
Last year, 22 death row inmates died of natural causes or committed suicide, while an additional 107 had their sentences commuted, tossed out or overturned. As of Dec. 31, there were 3,315 people on death row, compared to 3,378 a year earlier.
Tracy Snell, one of the report's authors, said the number of prisoners under death sentences has declined four years in a row, the result of a murder rate now at its lowest level in 40 years.