MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP/CNN) — Florida is one of 29 states that still have the death penalty, but only seven states carried out executions in 2019 including Florida with two. The continuing decline in capital punishment in the U.S. is the focus of a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center which says 2019 was the fifth straight year with fewer than 30 executions and 50 new death sentences.
The 22 executions this year were the second fewest since 1991 and down slightly from last year’s 25.
“Capital punishment continued to wither across the United States in 2019, disappearing completely in some regions and significantly eroding in others,” the nonprofit organization that opposes the death penalty said.
Although several sentences are left to be decided before the end of the year, the center said it expects 2019 will end with 35 to 37 new death sentences imposed, a decline of more than 87% from the peak in 1994 through 1996, when death sentences averaged about 300 each year.
There has been public support for the decline.
In a November letter to President Donald Trump, 175 murder victims’ families wrote the death penalty “does not solve crime.”
“It does not provide services for families like ours. It does not help solve the over 250,000 homicide cold cases in the United States,” the letter read. “It exacerbates the trauma of losing a loved one and created yet another grieving family.”
The families called for the end of the death penalty following a July announcement by the federal government that the federal death penalty would be reinstated for the first time in nearly 20 years. Attorney General William Barr ordered five executions for December and January of “death-row inmates convicted of murdering, and in some cases torturing and raping, the most vulnerable in our society — children and the elderly.”
Many, including the 175 families, 65 former judges, and more than four dozen prosecutors and law enforcement officials disagreed with the decision, the center said.
Public opinion continues to support the decrease in capital punishment, the center says. A record 60% of Americans say they preferred life imprisonment over the death penalty as a better punishment for murder, the center said, citing a Gallup poll.
This was the first time the American majority preferred a life sentence, the center said.
Elsewhere in the country, New Hampshire became the 21st state to abolish the death penalty, while California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a formal moratorium on executions in a state with the largest death row population, although the last execution in California took place nearly 14 years ago.
Also for the fifth straight year, no state west of Texas carried out an execution. There are now 32 states that either have no death penalty or have not executed anyone in more than a decade.
Twenty of the 22 executions in 2019 took place in five Southern states, led by Texas with 9, the center said. Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama executed three each, Florida two, and Missouri and South Dakota each executed one inmate.
In total, 32 states have either abolished the death penalty or haven’t executed anyone in more than a decade, the center said.
While Texas continues to be the leader in carrying out executions, the number of new death sentences there has dropped markedly in recent years, with just four for the year.
Florida and Ohio each had six inmates newly sentenced to death, among the 33 death sentences recorded so far this year. Several capital sentencing proceedings are ongoing and could change the final number, the report said.
(©Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.)