US state of Delaware's abolition of the death penalty puts it on 'right side of history'

Delaware has not carried out an execution since April 2012 © AP GraphicsBank

‘Delaware today has joined a growing majority on the right side of history’ -  James Clark

A ruling yesterday from the Supreme Court in the US state of Delaware that the state’s death penalty is unconstitutional has been welcomed by Amnesty International.

The ruling follows a US Supreme Court’s decision (Hurst v Florida) requiring that juries, not judges, must determine whether to impose the death penalty. Delaware is one of very few US states to allow the death penalty to be imposed by judges.  

Yesterday’s ruling makes Delaware, which has not executed a prisoner since 2012, the 19th US state now to abolish capital punishment. Meanwhile, 12 other US states have not carried out executions in ten or more years, reflecting a longstanding trend away from the death penalty in the country.

Amnesty International USA’s senior death penalty campaigner James Clark said:

"Momentum continues to build against the death penalty, and Delaware today has joined a growing majority on the right side of history.

“Today more than half of US states do not carry out executions. Those few that continue must end this failed system and abolish this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment once and for all.”

Amnesty has documented a steady decline in the use of the death penalty in the United States and around the world.

In 2015, only six US states carried out executions, and 86% of these were concentrated in just three states: Texas, Missouri and Georgia.

Death sentences in the US have declined annually for the past 15 years, and 2015 marked the lowest number of executions since 1991, with 28 executions (a 20% decline from the previous year) and the lowest number of new death sentences since the early 1970s, with 49 (a 33% decline).

Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Currently 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The USA was one of only nine countries in the world that carried out executions each year between 2009 and 2013.

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