In much of the country, the death penalty is disappearing. In the South, it lives on.

In the wake of Oklahoma’s horrifying mis-execution of Clayton Lockett, could the death penalty itself die off? It seems impossible, I know. Polls show support falling, but still at about 55 percent. And yet, that’s the death penalty in the abstract. On the ground, in many states, a different reality is playing out—one that demonstrates growing discomfort with capital punishment. 

There is one looming exception to this rule: the South. The death penalty has become largely a regional phenomenon that divides the South—or, really, parts of the South—from the rest of the country. While the death penalty remains legal in 32 states, actual death sentences and executions are concentrated in a small and shrinking number of them. The death penalty won’t be abolished throughout America anytime soon. But it could quietly fall into disuse in all but a small number of holdouts.

Read on....

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