Jan. 8, 2013
As legislative sessions begin across the country, legislators in several states have proposed bills to abolish or reform the death penalty in 2013.
In Alabama, Sen. Hank Sanders will introduce bills to abolish the death penalty, or alternatively to institute a series of reforms. "I believe the death penalty is not only unproductive but counter-productive," he said.
Texas will also consider a number of death penalty reform bills, including restrictions on certain types of evidence, and the creation of an innocence commission.
Colorado Sen. Claire Levy is drafting a bill to abolish the death penalty. "We have increasing concerns about the possibility of executing an innocent person," said Levy.
Kentucky Rep. Carl Rollins plans to propose a bill to replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole.
In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley has voiced support for a bill to end the death penalty and direct some of the money saved to murder victims' families.
Death sentences in 2012 were the second lowest since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, representing a nearly 75% decline since 1996, when there were 315 new death sentences.
Only nine states carried out executions in 2012, equaling the fewest number of states to do so in 20 years. In 2012, use of the death penalty was clustered in a few states.
Just four states (Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Arizona) were responsible for over three-quarters of the executions nationwide.
Death sentences were also primarily from a few areas, with four states (Florida, California, Texas, and Pennsylvania) accounting for almost two-thirds of the nation's death sentences.
New Hampshire's Gov. Margaret Hassan also supports abolition, and a bill is likely to be introduced in that state.
In Oregon, where Gov. John Kitzhaber instituted a moratorium on executions for the remainder of his term, Rep. Mitch Greenlick plans to introduce a bill beginning the process of abolishing the death penalty.