From the Pew Research Center, which notes that the fall in state-ordered homicides coincides with a decline in public support for executions [now at a 40-year low:
Nationwide, 20 inmates were executed in 2016, according to a report from the Death Penalty Information Center. That’s the fewest since 1991, when 14 inmates were executed. In every other year since 1992, the U.S. executed at least 28 people.
Just five states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Texas – accounted for all U.S. executions in 2016. That represents the fewest states to carry out executions in any year since 1983. In 1999, by comparison, 20 states conducted executions.
One reason for the national decline in executions was a decrease in Texas, which executed seven inmates this year, a 20-year low. Texas has long been the nation’s leader in executions, carrying out nearly five times as many as any other state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. During that span, Texas carried out 538 executions, compared with 112 in Oklahoma and 111 in Virginia. This year marked just the third time since 1985 that a state other than Texas led the nation in executions. (Georgia had nine.)
Legal and practical challenges prevented some states from carrying out executions in 2016. Ohio, for example, has not executed anyone since 2014 amid difficulties acquiring the drugs needed to conduct lethal injections. The state announced in October that it will resume executions next year, using a new protocol.
The number of death sentences imposed by the courts also declined substantially in 2016, reaching its lowest point since at least 1972, according to the Death Penalty Information Center’s report. The year’s 30 death sentences (including one that was expected but had not yet been imposed as of Dec. 21) are down from 49 in 2015 and 315 in 1996, the modern peak year for death sentences.