That's the title of a post at NPR writteny by Alan Greenblatt.
The death penalty has become a bit like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. It may never fade away entirely, but capital punishment is certainly less visible or actively pursued than it used to be.
In May, Maryland became the sixth state in as many years to abolish the death penalty. Across the nation as a whole, fewer criminals are being put to death. Last year, 43 were executed, down significantly from the peak of 98 back in 1999.
With violent crime well down from its scary highs in the 1990s, pressure on politicians to support the death penalty has declined as well. And in recent years, courts have made carrying out the death penalty less likely for various legal and logistical reasons.
"Even in places where the death penalty is regularly used, it's slowing down and in some cases it's stopped altogether, so the public is not engaged with it," says Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University. "For the most part, I see abolitionists being more successful than not."
Executions are allowed in 32 states, but the most recent ones have been concentrated in Southern and Sun Belt states such as Texas, Mississippi and Arizona, with occasional exceptions in places like Ohio.
The Supreme Court has narrowed the cases for which capital punishment can be applied, limiting it to murderers, and banning it for minors and those who are "mentally retarded."
Plenty of states have the death penalty on the books and prisoners on death row, but have not carried out executions for years.