Criminal Justice: The Dying Death Penalty

In 1935, the U.S. hit an alltime recorded high in executions: 199 people were put to death for crimes ranging from rape to armed robbery to murder. In 1966, the country hit an alltime low: only one American was executed last year. He was James D. French, 30, an Oklahoma life prisoner who was electrocuted for strangling a cellmate.

Thirteen states have now abolished the death penalty, in whole or part. But while the rest of the country is reluctant to discard it, endless appeals as well as commutations now commonly delay or prevent executions. At the...

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