The entrance to death row is seen at San Quentin state prison in San Quentin, Calif., June 8, 2012.
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

U.S. executions down in 2013

The number of people executed in the U.S. declined by about 10% in 2013 compared to the previous year, and support for capital punishment has fallen to its lowest point in four decades, according to a report released Thursday.

A notable contributing factor was the declining availability of drugs used in lethal injections, many of which are manufactured in Europe. In protest of capital punishment, a number of European countries have banned the drugs for export.  

Thirty-nine people were executed in the U.S. this year, marking only the second time in nearly two decades that the number fell below 40, the report, conducted by the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit group that opposes capital punishment, found. Beyond that, more than half of those executions were ordered by two states – Texas and Florida—and four death penalty states reported none.

As the leader in executions nationwide, Texas is emblematic of the shift away from capital punishment. This is the sixth year in a row that Texas reported fewer than 10 death sentences, compared to 48 in 1999.

In May, Maryland became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty, and the sixth in as many years, after DNA evidence exonerated Kirk Bloodsworth, who was convicted in 1985 of sexually assaulting and killing a nine-year-old girl.

According to the report, 3,108 people remain on death row, down slightly from 3,170 at the end of 2012.

U.S. executions down in 2013