States of punishment
Apr 20th 2012, 13:35 by The Economist online
Mapping the death penalty in America
FROM 2000 to 2011 there were, on average, five death-row exonerations a year in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre. North Carolina alone saw three exonerations in six months in 2008. The following year the state legislature passed the Racial Justice Act, which gives death-row inmates the chance to commute their sentences to life without parole if a judge rules the sentences were tainted by racial bias. (More than half of North Carolina's death-row inmates are black.) The first ruling will be issued on April 20th, a decision that could set a precedent for other challenges based on race. Indeed the ripples could be felt across the country, especially in Pennsylvania and Missouri, where similar legislation is pending. Other states are reconsidering capital punishment altogether. In November voters in California, which has more people on death row than any other state, will vote on whether to repeal the death penalty. And Connecticut, where a repeal bill was recently passed, is set to become the 17th state to abolish capital punishment.