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updated 9/16/2004 4:22:54 PM ET 2004-09-16T20:22:54

A new report from the Death Penalty Information Center found that in the past four years, juries have imposed far fewer death sentences than in the 1990s.  An average of 290 a year in the '90s, but in 2003, just 143 death sentences issued.

It is a number that has been sinking since 2000.  I've long said that I support the death penalty but believe it should be reserved for the worst of the worst— that over eager prosecutors sometimes overcharge defendants and treat it like a garden-variety punishment.  I'm sure recent stories have had an impact.  Stories about people convicted, sent to death row and then released, either because they were innocent or because there wasn't enough evidence after a review of the case. 

I think these numbers are a good thing for anyone who supports the penalty.  Death penalty opponents like the cite cases where the death penalty was misapplied and they have a valid point.  There have been problems. 

Now there’s a response: Jurors seem to get it. 

The death penalty should not be just another option in a prosecutor's arsenal.  And even if some of them don't get that, it's reassuring to see that many of you do. 

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