Nationwide, death penalty sentences have plunged to their lowest levels in the last few years due to a concern of the risk of executing the innocent, the high costs of capital punishment and fears over the method of lethal injection used in each of the 35 states that allow the death penalty.
Texas, which has had the most executions among all the states, has had a dramatic drop from 48 sentences in 2000 to only eight death sentences last year, says Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center which opposes the death penalty. California, the state with the largest death row in the country, has not had an execution for over five years.
"Illinois is being watched by the rest of the country because it stopped the death penalty, reviewed it and ultimately chose to abandon it. Other states have been watching Illinois, and are now considering legislation to abolish the death penalty," says Dieter.
Those states include, Maryland, Montana, Connecticut, Kansas and Florida.
"If these abolition votes continue, and a majority of states abolish the death penalty, then the Supreme Court of the United States might find that there is a consensus, or new standard of decency in the country that rejects the death penalty," he said.
In recent years the Supreme Court has narrowed the death penalty, abolishing it for juveniles and for the mentally retarded.