A clear majority of Americans support the death penalty, 60 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll. Yet that is the lowest level in decades, reflecting what the Death Penalty Information Center reported last week: Many in the country have growing doubts about its conduct and even its value.
Consider a few numbers generated by the center. Executions declined 10 percent the past year, the 39 roughly 60 percent lower than 14 years ago. The number of death sentences climbed slightly, though still near a 40-year low, and at 80 far below the 315 in 1996.
Part of the decline is practical. Ohio and other states with the death penalty have struggled to acquire the drugs used in lethal injection. Notably, European manufacturers have restricted exports of the drugs to American prison systems. That has left states scrambling, a few with effective moratoriums because officials have yet to formulate a substitute protocol.
Yet there may be something more profound at work, perhaps aided by the challenges many states face. Six states have repealed the death penalty the past six years, Maryland the most recent last spring, satisfied with the severe punishment of life without parole. Do so, and a state avoids the complications, including the higher costs and, most important, the risk of executing an innocent person. Ohio should try it.