Cuba's President Raul Castro says nearly all death sentences are to be commuted to prison terms of between 30 years and life.
It is the latest in a series of liberalising measures. Mr Castro said the decision was humanitarian and not due to international pressure.
Three people charged with terrorism will stay on death row for the time being. Their cases will be reviewed.
The death penalty will remain on the statute book in Cuba.
Mr Castro also announced he was convening a Communist Party congress next year - the first for more than a decade.
The congress is expected to chart Cuba's future political and economic agenda.
Cuba has been under pressure from human-rights organisations to abolish the death penalty, which is carried out by firing squad.
There are no official figures, but the Cuban Human Rights Commission estimates that between 40 and 50 inmates could be affected.
The only exceptions to the death penalty changes are two Central Americans charged with a hotel bombing that killed an Italian tourist, and a Cuban American charged with murder during an attempt at armed infiltration of the island.
"It would be irresponsible and disingenuous to renounce the dissuasive power that capital punishment has on the real terrorists, the imperialist mercenaries," Mr Castro said in a speech to the Communist Party central committee.
This is the latest in a series of social changes announced by Raul Castro since taking over as president from his older brother Fidel in February. They are designed to make life easier and less restrictive for ordinary Cubans.
They include lifting the ban on owning mobile phones and staying in the same hotels previously reserved for foreigners.
Buying and selling property is still not allowed, however.
Fidel Castro retired earlier this year after undergoing a series of intestinal operations in July 2006.
Travis County has the wrong men in the Yogurt Shop Case.
Press Conference and Protest:
With Jeannine Scott – wife of Michael Scott
TELL TRAVIS COUNTY TO
DROP ALL THE CHARGES NOW!
Tuesday, May 27th at 5:30PM
Travis County Courthouse Plaza, off Guadalupe between 10th and 11th.
Things are heating up in the Yogurt Shop case! As many of you may know, long time CEDP member Jeannine Scott is fighting for her husband Michael Scott, who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder in this case. Several years ago, 4 teenage girls were murdered in an Austin area yogurt shop. 8 years and dozens of false confessions later, 4 young men were indicted for the murders. With no physical evidence, Robert Springsteen was sent to death row and Michael Scott given life. Two other men were not even taken to trial. The basis of the convictions were “confessions” from Mike and Robert, which have been shown to have been coerced Although both men refused to testify against each other, each of their so-called confessions were used in the other’s trial as evidence. It is on the basis of this misuse of the “confessions” that both men had their convictions thrown out and were granted new trials.
Mike’s trial was slated to begin in May, but has been postponed indefinitely, while new DNA testing is done on crucial evidence from the crime scene, some of which has already been shown not to match any of the men originally indicted.
Austin Chronicle a good article outlining the issues in this case and the recent developments: