WASHINGTON (AP) — Thirty people were sentenced to death in the United States this year. That's the lowest number since the early 1970s and a further sign of the steady decline in use of the death penalty.

A new report from the Death Penalty Information Center says the number is a sharp drop from the 49 death sentences last year and just a fraction of the peak of 315 in 1996. The center is a nonprofit group that opposes capital punishment and tracks the issue.

The growing reluctance of juries to sentence defendants to death is one of several factors contributing to the overall drop in executions. Twenty people were executed this year. That's the fewest since 1991. The high-water mark was in 1999, when there were 98 executions.

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