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2014 saw fewest executions in 20 years, report finds

December 18, 2014

There was a significant drop in the number of executions and death penalty sentences in 2014, a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center finds.

The group's year-end accounting finds that:

— States conducted 35 executions in 2014 — the lowest since 1994.

— And the justice system sentenced 72 people to death — the lowest number in 40 years.

Of course, this comes on a year where capital punishment took center stage in the news: First, because a drug shortage forced corrections systems across the country to tweak lethal injection cocktails. Second, because three states — Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona — botched executions.

The Center, which opposes the death penalty, says the lull this year is due in part to the delay caused by those states' attempts to investigate and correct what caused those prolonged executions.

And while all of those cases brought up arguments both for and against the death penalty, public opinion has not budged.

A Gallup poll in October found that 63 percent of Americans support the death penalty. That number has remained steady for the past decade.

In related news: We're getting new documents that shed light on what exactly happened when Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett. The documents were released as part of a court hearing weighing the constitutionality of the state's execution process.

As the Tulsa World Herald reports, at the time of the execution, officials disputed the accounts of reporters who saw Lockett writhing and jerking. But testimony made public earlier this week, described the execution as "a bloody mess."

The Herald adds:

"Another witness said the scene 'was like a horror movie' as Lockett was bucking and attempting to raise himself off the gurney when he was supposed to be unconscious and dying.

"The paramedic who struggled to start numerous IVs that night told state investigators that 'the process that day as a whole' was 'a cluster.'"

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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