The state of Georgia will execute convicted cop-killer Troy Davis on Wednesday evening, following the rejection of a last-minute appeal by Davis’ attorneys.
The state Pardons and Paroles Board said in a statement it will allow the execution to occur.
Davis was tried and convicted for the 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, a police officer in Savannah, Ga.
Justice was finally served for my father, Mark MacPhail Jr. told the Associated Press. The truth was finally heard.
However, while critics and proponents of the death penalty will likely never see common ground, executions of condemned prisoners in the United States have dramatically declined over the past decade or so.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), since 1976 (when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty), a total of 1276 prisoners have been executed in the U.S. (not including Davis). After reaching a one-year peak of 98 executions in 1999; the annual number of state-sanctioned killings has been steadily dropping to 46 in 2010 and 33 so far this year.
Also, of those 1276 executions, 474 (about 37 percent) have been carried out in Texas.
Interestingly, executions were quite rare for the first six years after 1976 – a maximum of two inmates were killed in any one of those years.
Similarly, the number of death sentence convictions have also fallen dramatically over the past fifteen years or so.
According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, such convictions have declined from 313 in 1994 to an estimated 112 last year.
However, DPIC highlights the racial disparities in the implementation of the ultimate punishment. Since 1976, 35 percent of executed prisoners have been black, versus 56 percent being white.
“Over 75 percent of the murder victims in cases resulting in an execution were white, even though nationally only 50 percent of murder victims generally are white,” DPIC said.
(It should be noted that Troy Davis is black and his victim was white).
The DPIC also noted that 98 percent of the chief district attorneys in death penalty states are white; only 1 percent are black. A comprehensive study of the death penalty in North Carolina found that the odds of receiving a death sentence rose by 3.5 times among those defendants whose victims were white. In addition, a study in California found that those who killed whites were over three times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed blacks and over four times more likely than those who killed Latinos.”
Thirty-four states in the U.S. currently have the death penalty, including California, Texas and Florida. The only non-Southern state not to have capital punishment in West Virginia.
As of Jan. 1, 2011, a total of 3,251 prisoners are languishing on death row in the U.S. – more than one-third of them (1440) in California, Florida and Texas.
Moreover, although men account for the overwhelming majority of death penalty convicts (98.1 percent as of April 1, 2010, according to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund), twelve women have been executed in the U.S. since 1976.
Another interesting facet of the death penalty saga has to do with death row prisoners who are exonerated and released.
DPIC indicated that since 1973, more than 130 inmates have been exonerated on the basis of new evidence proving their innocence. More than forty of these unique scenarios have occurred in Florida and Illinois alone.