The death penalty may not have long to live.
Only nine states carried out executions this year, the fewest to do so in 20 years. Seventy-eight people were sentenced to death in 2012, a 75 percent decline since 1996, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Some states with a history of high death penalty use -- North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia -- had no new death sentences or executions in 2012. Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Arizona, accounted for more than three-quarters of the executions nationwide, the report said.
At this point, 33 states still have the death penalty on the books, but that number has been dropping. Connecticut banned capital punishment this year. It was the fifth state in five years to do so, after Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York.
Experts say juries have been influenced by lingering doubts over guilt, knowing there have been exonerations based on DNA evidence. Also, the expense of incarceration during lengthy appeals and the execution itself make some prosecutors favor life sentences, the New York Times said.