- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2006

The number of inmates on death row went down last year compared with 2004, making it the fifth consecutive year for such a drop.

A total of 3,254 inmates were being held on death row by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and 36 states at the end of last year, 66 fewer than at the end of 2004, according to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). There were 3,601 death row prisoners on Dec. 31, 2000.

Four states — California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas — held half of all death row inmates as of the end of last year. The Federal Bureau of Prisons held 37 death row inmates.

The BJS said that during 2005, 128 inmates were put on death row, the lowest number of admissions since 1973, when 44 persons were admitted — the third consecutive year such admissions had declined.

Sixteen states executed 60 prisoners last year, one more execution than in 2004 and 38 fewer than in 1999, the peak year for executions since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Those executed during 2005 had been under a sentence of death an average of 12 years and three months, or 15 months longer than for inmates executed in 2004.

The BJS said Texas carried out 19 executions last year; Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina each executed five inmates; Ohio, Alabama and Oklahoma executed four each; Georgia and South Carolina executed three each; California executed two; Connecticut, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Maryland and Mississippi each executed one.

Fifty-nine men and one woman were executed during 2005. The execution in Connecticut was the first in that state since 1960.

According to the BJS, among the inmates sentenced to death for whom information was available:

• 65 percent had a prior felony conviction, including 8 percent with at least one previous homicide conviction. Nearly four in 10 inmates under a death sentence committed the capital crime while on probation, parole or in some other criminal justice status.

• 56 percent of death row inmates were white and 42 percent were black. The 362 Hispanic inmates under sentence of death accounted for 13 percent of inmates with a known ethnicity. Ninety-eight percent of all inmates were male and 2 percent were female.

• The average age of death row inmates on Dec. 31, 2005, was 42. The oldest death row inmate was 90 and the youngest was 20. Among inmates for whom the date of arrest was available, 11 percent (342 of the 2,985 inmates) were 19 or younger at the time of their arrest.

According to the BJS, of the 7,320 persons under a death sentence between 1977 and 2005, 14 percent had been executed, 4 percent died from causes other than execution and 37 percent received other dispositions. A slightly higher percentage of whites (16 percent) than blacks and Hispanics (11 percent) have been executed.

The BJS also noted that during the first 11 months of this year, fewer executions had been carried out compared with the same period last year. As of Nov. 30, 14 states had executed 52 inmates — three fewer than the number executed as of the same date last year.

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