The Death Penalty Information Center has issued its annual report on the state of capital punishment in this country.  According to the DPIC, the forty-six (46) executions that were  conducted this year constitute a twelve percent (12%) decrease in the death penalty.  (In 2009, there were 52 executions in the United States; in 2000, there were 85.)

Captial punishment therefore declined in the first decade of the 21st Century.  However, there are 3261 people still living on American Death Rows today and each of them still faces a sentence of death. 

While the decrease in the executions may be good news, it’s got to be considered in tandem with the marketplace. 

The reality is that due to the scarcity of sodium thiopental many states simply reset execution dates to 2011, since Hospira (the only manufacturer of the drug) promises that supplies will be available for the lethal injection drug early next year.  After all, rather than find artful ways of circumventing the standard three-drug lethal injection cocktail (which includes sodium thiopental) like Ohio, Arizona, and Oklahoma (see Tuesday’s post), some states just rescheduled their calendars (e.g., Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Tennessee).

Bottom line: if Hospira starts meeting demand for the execution drug, then 2011 may see a rise in the number of executions.

 For more on the DPIC annual report, go to the DPIC site where it is available for download.