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The death penalty agonizes in the US, but the conservative wave ensures its future

The 23 prisoners executed this year in the United States confirmed the agony of the death penalty in that country, which nevertheless secured its near future with the appointment of a judge who consolidated the conservative majority in the Supreme Court.

The 23 executions represent a slight increase compared to 20 in 2016, but they are the second lowest figure in the last quarter of the century. Far are the 98 of 1999 or the 85 of 2000.

The other indicator of the health of the death penalty, the death sentences, also registered with 39 one of its historical lows after 30 of 2016, which was the lowest figure since this punishment was reinstated in 1976. In 1996, it was decreed 315

The arrival of Donald Trump to the White House did not cause major changes in the death penalty, which depends mostly on state justice systems.

Trump’s great contribution to capital punishment, although indirect, was the appointment of the Supreme Court magistrate Neil Gorsuch as substitute for the late Antonin Scalia, with whom the High Court maintained its long conservative majority.

Many saw in the predictable victory of Democrat Hillary Clinton the probable appointment of a progressive magistrate and with it the real possibility of abolishing the death penalty in the only western democracy in which it remains in force.

According to the Gallup consultant’s annual survey, support for the death penalty among Americans fell to 55% in 2017 (60% in 2016), the lowest rate since 1972.

The United States and its application of the death penalty came to the world’s attention this 2017 when the state of Arkansas prepared to execute eight prisoners within 10 days after more than a decade without doing so because their lethal injections expired.

Finally, four prisoners were executed, since the other four obtained judicial suspensions and one of them was commuted to a life sentence.

The arrival of Trump to the White House did not mean an opening for the importation of components for lethal injections, of almost impossible access in the United States due to the opposition of the pharmaceutical companies to be used in executions.

Ohio also ran again this 2017 after more than three years with the system paralyzed by a flawed lethal injection that administered a prisoner in 2014, a disastrous year in which Arizona and Oklahoma led similar cases that put the death penalty at edge of disappearance in the United States.

Precisely Ohio ignited all the alarms in November when its executioners could not find the veins to administer a lethal injection to a prisoner of 69 years with a delicate state of health, reason why finally the execution was postponed.

One more year it was the southern state of Texas that led with 7 executions in the United States, followed by Arkansas with 4, Alabama and Florida with 3, Ohio and Virginia with 2 and Missouri and Georgia with 1 each.

Since the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Texas has executed 545 of the total of 1,465 (almost 40%), barely followed by Virginia with 113.

It also marked 2017 the election of a prosecutor against the death penalty in Harris County, whose capital is Houston, the county that has imposed more death sentences and more executions -116- has been promoted in the US. in the last four decades.

In the county of Philadelphia – the third of the country with the most death sentences, although almost without executions – of homonymous capital, a prosecutor opposed to the death penalty was also elected.

Prosecutor Kim Ogg in Harris County and prosecutor Lawrence Krasner in Philadelphia will thus help reduce death row numbers, which as of July 1, 2017 had 2,817 inmates by 2,905 the previous year, according to data of the National Association for the Progress of Colored People (NAACP).

Although there were more convictions than executions in 2017, the overall reduction in death row was due to natural deaths of an increasingly aging population, commutations of sentence and some exoneration.

Of the 2,817 death row inmates, 1,196 are white (42.46%), 1,168 African American (41.46%) and 373 (13.24%) Latino. California has the most populous death row with 746 inmates, followed by Florida (374) and Texas (243).

By 2018 different states have already scheduled a dozen executions, the first will take place on January 18 in Texas with Anthony Shore – known as “the turnstile killer” – for the rape and murder with home turnstiles of four women between 1986 and 1994 in the Houston area.

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