南京夜网

DNA exonerations lead to decline in death sentences

WASHINGTON: The number of death sentences imposed by courts in the United States has fallen because of a growing number of exonerations through DNA testing, according to a report by a prominent anti-death penalty group.The Death Penalty Information Centre in Washington says judges and juries imposed fewer death sentences over the past 12 months than at any time since the restoration of execution in 1976.This year 106 death sentences have been passed, the seventh year in a row the number has fallen. The total is sharply down on the high of 328 in 1994.However, the number of executions rose to 52 this year, a sharp increase on the year before, because of the lifting of the de facto moratorium while the US Supreme Court considered the legality of lethal injections. Richard Dieter, the information centre’s director and author of the report, said the decrease in death sentences reflected growing concern over the reliability of convictions. ”The principal reason is the innocence cases, the exonerations, people getting out because of DNA testing,” he said.”People read about these exonerations, people walking out of prison 20 years after the crime. Jurors are convicting but giving life sentences, not the death penalty.” The centre said nine condemned men were exonerated in 2009, the second highest number of exonerations since the death penalty was reinstated.The Innocence Project says that 245 convicts have subsequently been cleared by DNA evidence across the US. Last week a man was released after 35 years in prison for raping a child. James Bain was sentenced to life for kidnapping and raping a nine-year-old boy who identified him from a photograph. A judge ordered the 54-year-old to be freed after DNA testing cleared him of the crime.Mr Dieter said the decline in death sentences was particularly pronounced in the two states that carry out the most executions, Texas and Virginia. A decade ago Texas was imposing 34 death sentences a year. This year it imposed nine.The economic climate had also contributed, Mr Dieter said, because prosecutors were increasingly hesitant to spend the millions of dollars it often takes to secure a death penalty conviction when spending by many states is being cut.Half of this year’s executions were in Texas. But the total number of executions was still down by nearly half from 10 years ago.Guardian News & Media
Nanjing Night Net