WASHINGTON- The past year has seen fewer executions and death sentences in the United States, where more than 3,100 inmates still linger on death row, a non-profit group reported Thursday.
Thirty-nine executions were carried out in nine states, down from 43 last year and only the second time in 19 years there have been fewer than 40 executions, the Death Penalty Information Center said.
Eighty death sentences were handed down, two more than last year but still far below the peak of 315 seen in 1994 and 1996.
"The key reason for the decline in the death penalty has been the revelation of so many mistakes," said the centre's executive director Richard Dieter.
"Over 140 people have been exonerated and freed from death row, including another inmate in 2013," he said in an email to AFP.
He added: "Juries are less likely to impose the death penalty and prosecutors are less likely to seek it."
"Life without parole, which is now quite prevalent, has become the alternative to the death penalty and will likely replace it completely in the future."
The United States ranks fifth in the top 10 list of nations with the most executions between 2007 and 2012, according to Amnesty International.
China tops the table with "thousands" of executions, followed by Iran and Saudi Arabia, the human rights group has said.
Of the 3,108 inmates on death row around the United States, the biggest number are in California (731) followed by Florida (412) and Texas (298).