The United States is virtually unique among modern industrial democracies in maintaining the use of capital punishment. Both historically and in the contemporary world, the death penalty has had strong supporters as well as serious critics. Reflecting the contested status of the sanction, its use has varied depending on a number of factors, including crime rates, public sentiment, legal strictures, and geographical differences.

The annual number of executions in the United States has been on the decline since it reached a peak of 98 in 1999. In 2010, there were 46 ...

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