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Executions wane but death penalty support still high


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Executions in the United States have declined from a high of 98 in 1999 to 40 so far in 2007, and death penalty convictions also are dropping, said Deacon George Brooks, who once handled anti-death penalty advocacy on the staff of Kolbe House.

While Brooks’ position at Kolbe House was eliminated, he still follows the issue. Death penalty convictions are dropping, he said, because juries have become more reluctant to impose the penalty after seeing dozens of people sentenced to death exonerated. States sometimes are declining to ask for the death penalty because they know it will be much more expensive in the long run than life without parole, he said.

Still, public support for the death penalty runs at about 65 percent, he said. However, that drops significantly if a sentence of life without parole is an option, Brooks said.

Since former Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions in Illinois in 2000, there have been no death sentences carried out, and in recent years, it has not been in the news much.

But Brooks said that makes now the perfect time to advocate for complete abolition of capital punishment. “There has been legislation (to abolish the death penalty) drafted in Springfield, but it hasn’t gotten out of committee,” he said. “Now is a good time for parishes to have speakers out and raise awareness. The only way legislators will ever consider abolition is if their constituents support it.”