NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States executed fewer people this year, in part because there is a shortage of the drug used in lethal injections and because executions are too expensive in tough economic times, a report released on Tuesday said.
The Death Penalty Information Center said in its annual report that executions decreased 12 percent this year and new death sentences stayed near the lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.
Texas led the nation with 17 of the 46 executions carried out this year in the United States. The total is down from 52 in 2009 and less than half the number put to death in 1999.
“Whether it’s concerns about the high costs of the death penalty at a time when budgets are being slashed, the risks of executing the innocent, unfairness, or other reasons, the nation continued to move away from the death penalty in 2010,” Richard Dieter, the center’s executive director and author of the report, said in a statement.
One factor reducing or delaying executions is difficulty obtaining sodium thiopental, one of the drugs used in lethal injection executions, the Washington-based group said.
Executions were postponed or canceled in five states due to a shortage of the drug, it said. Arizona imported some from Britain, where executions have been abolished, but Britain is now restricting the drug’s exportation.
New death sentences in 2010 will total 114, near the lowest level since 1976 when executions were authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court, and down two-thirds from their peak in 1996.
There have been 1,234 executions in the United States since 1976, nearly half of those carried out in Texas and Virginia.
Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Anthony Boadle