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South Carolina is one of the 24 states that continue to require the death penalty by law. In the past 16 years, 11 states have overturned the death penalty, Dunham said, including Virginia, which became the first southern state to do so in March. Governors have also introduced death penalty moratoriums in California, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.
At the courthouse level, prosecutors were increasingly reluctant to apply for the death penalty and the juries were increasingly reluctant to impose it. The decline in death sentences has been dramatic: fewer than 50 have been passed in the United States in each of the past six years, a marked change from the mid-1990s, when the total annual prison sentence sometimes exceeded 300.
Gallup polls late last year showed that public support for the death penalty was at its lowest level since the early 1970s, although it is still popular with the majority of Americans. 55 percent of those polled said they approved the death penalty for convicted murderers.
After years of no federal execution, Mr Trump’s administration oversaw 13, more than a fifth of the prisoners the Bureau of Prisons says were on death row. In contrast, President Biden campaigned for a promise to end the death penalty for federal inmates and encourage states to follow suit.
When Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, expressed his support for ending the death penalty, he noted the enormous racial inequality in the way it was imposed in his state: approximately 79 percent of the inmates executed were black. “The end of the death penalty depends on a fundamental question, a question: is it fair?” Mr. Northam said.
A similar imbalance exists across the country, including South Carolina; In the 284 executions carried out by the state since 1912, nearly three-quarters of the inmates were black.
The state now has 37 men on death row, three of whom have exhausted all appeals, officials said.
“These families of victims of these capital crimes cannot be closed because we are in this limbo,” said William Weston J. Newton, a Republican lawmaker, during the House of Representatives debate.