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U.S. executions at 20-year low in 2014

"If you are going to have the death penalty it has to be a working death penalty," says Connecticut State Rep. David Labriola.

By Matt Bradwell

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- As 2014 draws to a close, the 72 death row inmates executed in the United States represent the smallest number of American inmates put to death in one year since 1994.

The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and Dennis McGuire's prolonged lethal injection in Ohio have law enforcement officials re-examining end-of-life protocol for death row inmates. Additionally, states are forced to delay executions and explore alternate options as the companies who manufacture lethal injection drugs increasingly refuse to do so.

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"What's going on here is that we are seeing capital punishment slipping into irrelevance as a criminal justice tool,'' Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told USA Today, adding, "the country is re-thinking this as an effective remedy.''

"The realization that mistakes have been made, that innocent people are still being freed, has made juries hesitant. They are willing to convict but not sentence to death. There is a demand for perfect proof, and so prosecutors are taking more plea bargains."

Despite Dieter's assessment, 59 percent of Americans still favor the death penalty according to NBC News.

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"If you are going to have the death penalty it has to be a working death penalty," noted Connecticut State Rep. David Labriola. Labriola supports the death penalty and feels most of the country is on his side -- provided executions are humane, timely and applied only with legal certainty.

"There are some crimes so heinous, that is the only appropriate punishment. Had Adam Lanza not turned the gun on himself [after killing 26 in the 2012 Newtown, Conn., school massacre], he would have surely qualified for the death penalty."

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