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Number of death sentences down in 2011

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Number of death sentences down in 2011

Ultimate punishment drops to lowest level in 35 years

The number of death sentences in the United States fell to below 100 in 2011, a historic low in the last 35 years, according to a report published Thursday.

Only 78 inmates were sentenced to death in 2011, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that opposes capital punishment and puts out an annual tally of executions based on state and federal information, USA Today reported.

"It's the first time we've had fewer than 100 new death sentences in a year in the modern era of capital punishment," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the center, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The study also found that 43 people were executed this year, a small decrease from 46 in 2010, Politico reported. Three-fourths of the executions in 2011 took place in the South, with Texas leading with 13 deaths, followed by Alabama with six deaths and Ohio with five. Texas, which has accounted for 37 percent of all executions, had the most in 2010, with 17, and also in 2009, with 24.

Overall the report showed that the number of death sentences were down about 75 percent from 1996, when 315 inmates were sentenced to death, Politico reported. The Center attributed a sharp drop in violent crime, the high cost of pursuing executions and shifts in state sentencing laws for lowering the numbers, the WSJ reported.

The Center also feels this shows "the growing discomfort that many Americans have with the death penalty,” USA Today reported. Although a majority of Americans still support the death penalty, public backing has declined in recent years, WSJ reported. In a recent Gallup poll 61 percent of respondents supported the death penalty, whereas 80 percent supported it in 1994 and 69 percent in 2007, WSJ reported.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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