Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the United States, currently used by 31 states, the federal government, and the military.[1] Its existence can be traced to the beginning of the American colonies. The United States is the only Western country currently applying the death penalty,[2] one of 58 countries worldwide applying it, and was the first to develop lethal injection as a method of execution, which has since been adopted by five other countries.[3]

There were no executions in the United States between 1967 and 1977. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down capital punishment statutes in Furman v. Georgia, reducing all death sentences pending at the time to life imprisonment.[4]

Subsequently, a majority of states passed new death penalty statutes, and the court affirmed the legality of capital punishment in the 1976 case Gregg v. Georgia. Since then, more than 7,800 defendants have been sentenced to death;[5] of these, more than 1,400 have been executed,[6] 161 who were sentenced to death in the modern era were exonerated before their execution,[7][8] and more than 2,900 are still on death row.[9]


Pre-Furman history

Executions in the United States from 1608 to 2009

The first recorded death sentence in the British North American colonies was carried out in 1608 on Captain George Kendall,[10] who was executed by firing squad[11] at the Jamestown colony for spying for the Spanish government.[12]

The Bill of Rights adopted in 1789 included the Eighth Amendment which prohibited cruel and unusual punishment. The Fifth Amendment was drafted with language implying a possible use of the death penalty, requiring a grand jury indictment for "capital crime" and a due process of law for deprivation of "life" by the government.[13] The Fourteenth Amendment adopted in 1868 also requires a due process of law for deprivation of life by any states.

The Espy file,[14] compiled by M. Watt Espy and John Ortiz Smykla, lists 15,269 people executed in the United States and its predecessor colonies between 1608 and 1991. From 1930 to 2002, there were 4,661 executions in the U.S., about two-thirds of them in the first 20 years.[15] Additionally, the United States Army executed 135 soldiers between 1916 and 1955 (the most recent).[16][17][18]

Early abolition movement

Three states abolished the death penalty for murder during the 19th century: Michigan in 1846 (has never executed a prisoner since achieving statehood), Wisconsin in 1853 and Maine in 1887. Rhode Island is also a state with a long abolitionist background, having repealed the death penalty in 1852, though it was theoretically available for murder committed by a prisoner between 1872 and 1984.

Other states which abolished the death penalty for murder before Gregg v. Georgia include: Minnesota in 1911, Vermont in 1964, Iowa and West Virginia in 1965 and North Dakota in 1973. Hawaii abolished the death penalty in 1948 and Alaska in 1957, both before their statehood. Puerto Rico repealed it in 1929 and the District of Columbia in 1981. Arizona and Oregon abolished the death penalty by popular vote in 1916 and 1964 respectively, but both reinstated it, again by popular vote, some years later: Arizona in 1918 and Oregon in 1978.[19] Puerto Rico and Michigan are the only two U.S. jurisdictions to have explicitly prohibited capital punishment in their constitutions: in 1952 and 1964, respectively.

Constitutional law developments

Nevertheless, capital punishment continued to be used by a majority of states and the federal government for various crimes, especially murder and rape, from the creation of the United States up to the beginning of the 1960s. Until then, "save for a few mavericks, no one gave any credence to the possibility of ending the death penalty by judicial interpretation of constitutional law", according to abolitionist Hugo Bedau.[20]

The possibility of challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty became progressively more realistic after the Supreme Court of the United States decided Trop v. Dulles in 1958, when the court said explicitly for the first time that the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual clause must draw its meaning from the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society", rather than from its original meaning. Also in the 1932 case Powell v. Alabama, the court made the first step of what would be later be called "death is different" jurisprudence, when it held that any indigent defendant was entitled to a court-appointed attorney in capital cases - a right that was only later extended to non-capital defendants in 1963, with Gideon v. Wainwright.

Capital punishment suspended (1972)

In Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court considered a group of consolidated cases. The lead case involved an individual convicted under Georgia's death penalty statute, which featured a "unitary trial" procedure in which the jury was asked to return a verdict of guilt or innocence and, simultaneously, determine whether the defendant would be punished by death or life imprisonment. The last pre-Furman execution was that of Luis Monge on June 2, 1967.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the impositions of the death penalty in each of the consolidated cases as unconstitutional in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court has never ruled the death penalty to be per se unconstitutional. The five justices in the majority did not produce a common opinion or rationale for their decision, however, and agreed only on a short statement announcing the result. The narrowest opinions, those of Byron White and Potter Stewart, expressed generalized concerns about the inconsistent application of the death penalty across a variety of cases, but did not exclude the possibility of a constitutional death penalty law. Stewart and William O. Douglas worried explicitly about racial discrimination in enforcement of the death penalty. Thurgood Marshall and William J. Brennan Jr. expressed the opinion that the death penalty was proscribed absolutely by the Eighth Amendment as cruel and unusual punishment.

The Furman decision caused all death sentences pending at the time to be reduced to life imprisonment, and was described by scholars as a "legal bombshell".[4] The next day, columnist Barry Schweid wrote that it was "unlikely" that the death penalty could exist anymore in the United States.[21]

Capital punishment reinstated (1976)

U.S. Supreme Court seat in Washington, D.C.

Instead of abandoning capital punishment, 37 states enacted new death penalty statutes that attempted to address the concerns of White and Stewart in Furman. Some states responded by enacting mandatory death penalty statutes which prescribed a sentence of death for anyone convicted of certain forms of murder. White had hinted that such a scheme would meet his constitutional concerns in his Furman opinion. Other states adopted "bifurcated" trial and sentencing procedures, with various procedural limitations on the jury's ability to pronounce a death sentence designed to limit juror discretion.

On July 2, 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Gregg v. Georgia[22] and upheld 7-2 a Georgia procedure in which the trial of capital crimes was bifurcated into guilt-innocence and sentencing phases. At the first proceeding, the jury decides the defendant's guilt; if the defendant is innocent or otherwise not convicted of first-degree murder, the death penalty will not be imposed. At the second hearing, the jury determines whether certain statutory aggravating factors exist, whether any mitigating factors exist, and, in many jurisdictions, weigh the aggravating and mitigating factors in assessing the ultimate penalty - either death or life in prison, either with or without parole. The same day, in Woodson v. North Carolina[23] and Roberts v. Louisiana,[24] the court struck down 5-4 statutes providing a mandatory death sentence.

Executions resumed on January 17, 1977, when Gary Gilmore went before a firing squad in Utah. Although hundreds of individuals were sentenced to death in the United States during the 1970s and early 1980s, only ten people besides Gilmore (who had waived all of his appeal rights) were actually executed prior to 1984.

Supreme Court narrows capital offenses

In 1977, the Supreme Court's Coker v. Georgia decision barred the death penalty for rape of an adult woman. Previously, the death penalty for rape of an adult had been gradually phased out in the United States, and at the time of the decision, Georgia and the U.S. Federal government were the only two jurisdictions to still retain the death penalty for that offense.

In the 1980 case Godfrey v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that murder can be punished by death only if it involves a narrow and precise aggravating factor.[25]

The U.S. Supreme Court has placed two major restrictions on the use of the death penalty. First, the case of Atkins v. Virginia, decided on June 20, 2002,[26] held that the execution of intellectually disabled inmates is unconstitutional. Second, in 2005, the court's decision in Roper v. Simmons[27] struck down executions for offenders under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

In the 2008 case Kennedy v. Louisiana, the court also held 5-4 that the death penalty is unconstitutional when applied to non-homicidal crimes against the person, including child rape. Only two death row inmates (both in Louisiana) were affected by the decision.[28] Nevertheless, the ruling came less than five months before the 2008 presidential election and was criticized by both major party candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.[29]

Repeal movements and legal challenges

In 2004, New York and Kansas capital sentencing schemes were struck down by their respective state highest courts. Kansas successfully appealed the Kansas Supreme Court decision to the United States Supreme Court, who reinstated the statute in Kansas v. Marsh (2006), holding it did not violate the U.S. Constitution. The decision of New York Court of Appeals was based on the state constitution, making unavailable any appeal. The state lower house has since blocked all attempts to reinstate the death penalty by adopting a valid sentencing scheme.[30] In 2016, Delaware's death penalty statute was also struck down by its state supreme court.[31]

In 2007, New Jersey became the first state to repeal the death penalty by legislative vote since Gregg v. Georgia,[32] followed by New Mexico in 2009,[33][34] Illinois in 2011,[35] Connecticut in 2012,[36][37] and Maryland in 2013.[38] The repeals were not retroactive, but in New Jersey, Illinois and Maryland, governors commuted all death sentences after enacting the new law.[39] In Connecticut, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the repeal must be retroactive. New Mexico is the only state with remaining death row inmates and no present death penalty statute.[40]

Nebraska's legislature also passed a repeal in 2015, but a referendum campaign gathered enough signatures to suspend it. Capital punishment was reinstated by popular vote on November 8, 2016. The same day, California's electorate defeated a proposal to repeal the death penalty, and adopted another initiative to speed up its appeal process.[41]

Since Furman, 11 states have organized popular votes dealing with the death penalty through the initiative and referendum process. All resulted in a vote for reinstating it, rejecting its abolition, expanding its application field, specifying in the state constitution that it is not unconstitutional, or expediting the appeal process in capital cases.[19]

Lethal injection era

The lethal injection room in Florida State Prison.

From 1976 to January 1, 2017, there were 1,442 executions, of which 1,267 were by lethal injection, 158 by electrocution, 11 by gas inhalation, 3 by hanging, and 3 by firing squad.[42] Executions rose at a near-continuous pace until 1999, when it peaked at 98. After 1999, the number of executions lowered nearly every year, and the 20 executions in 2016 were the fewest since 1991.[6]

The death penalty was a notable issue during the 1988 presidential election. It came up in the October 13, 1988, debate between the two presidential nominees George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis, when Bernard Shaw, the moderator of the debate, asked Dukakis, "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis [his wife] were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" Dukakis replied, "No, I don't, and I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don't see any evidence that it's a deterrent, and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime." Bush was elected, and many, including Dukakis himself, cite the statement as the beginning of the end of his campaign.[43]

In 1996, Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act to streamline the appeal process in capital cases. The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, who had endorsed capital punishment during his 1992 presidential campaign.

A study found that at least 34 of the 749 executions carried out in the U.S. between 1977 and 2001, or 4.5%, involved "unanticipated problems or delays that caused, at least arguably, unnecessary agony for the prisoner or that reflect gross incompetence of the executioner". The rate of these "botched executions" remained steady over the period.[44] A study published in The Lancet in 2005 found that in 43% of cases of lethal injection, the blood level of hypnotics in the prisoner was insufficient to ensure unconsciousness.[45] Nonetheless, the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 (Baze v. Rees) and again in 2015 (Glossip v. Gross) that lethal injection does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.[46]

Women's history and capital punishment

In 1632, 24 years after the first recorded male execution in the colonies, Jane Champion became the first woman to be lawfully executed.[47] She was sentenced to death by hanging after she was convicted of murder in front of a grand jury.[48] The second half of the 1600s saw the executions of 14 women and 6 men who were accused of witchcraft during the witch hunt hysteria and the Salem Witch Trials. While both men and women were executed, 80% of the accusations were towards women, so the list of executions disproportionately affected men by a margin of 6 (actual) to 4 (expected), i.e. 50% more men were executed than expected from the percentage of accused who were men.[49]

Other notable female executions include Mary Surratt, Margie Velma Barfield and Wanda Jean Allen. Mary Surratt was executed by hanging in 1865 after being convicted of co-conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.[50] Margie Velma Barfield was convicted of murder and when she was executed by lethal injection in 1984, she became the first woman to be executed since the ban on capital punishment was lifted in 1976.[51] Wanda Jean Allen was convicted of murder in 1989 and had a high-profile execution by lethal injection in January 2001. She was the first black woman to be executed in the US since 1954.[52] According to Allen's lawyers, prosecutors capitalized on her low IQ, race and homosexuality in their representations of her as a murderer at trial.[53]

Capital crimes

Aggravated murder

Aggravating factors for seeking capital punishment of murder vary greatly among death penalty states. California has twenty-two;[54] New Hampshire has seven.[55] Some aggravating circumstances are nearly universal, such as robbery-murder, murder involving rape of the victim, and murder of an on-duty police officer.[56]

Several states have included child murder to their list of aggravating factors, but the victim's age under which the murder is punishable by death varies. In 2011, Texas raised this age from six to ten.[57]

In some states, the high number of aggravating factors has been criticized on account of giving prosecutors too much discretion in choosing cases where they believe capital punishment is warranted. In California especially, an official commission proposed, in 2008, to reduce these factors to five (multiple murders, torture murder, murder of a police officer, murder committed in jail, and murder related to another felony).[58] Columnist Charles Lane went further, and proposed that murder related to a felony other than rape should no longer be a capital crime when there is only one victim killed.[59]

Crimes against the state

The opinion of the court in Kennedy v. Louisiana says that the ruling does not apply to "treason, espionage, terrorism, and drug kingpin activity, which are offenses against the State".[60]

Since no one is on death row for such offenses, the court has yet to rule on the constitutionality of the death penalty applied for them.

Treason, espionage and large-scale drug trafficking are all capital crimes under federal law. Treason is also punishable by death in six states (Arkansas, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri). Vermont still has a pre-Furman statute providing the death penalty for treason despite removing capital punishment for murder in 1965.[61] Large-scale drug trafficking is punishable by death in two states (Florida and Missouri).[62] Aircraft hijacking is a capital crime in Georgia and Mississippi.

Legal process

The legal administration of the death penalty in the United States typically involves five critical steps: (1) prosecutorial decision to seek the death penalty (2) sentencing, (3) direct review, (4) state collateral review, and (5) federal habeas corpus.

Clemency, through which the Governor or President of the jurisdiction can unilaterally reduce or abrogate a death sentence, is an executive rather than judicial process.[63]

Decision to seek the death penalty

While judges in criminal cases can usually impose a harsher prison sentence than the one demanded by prosecution, the death penalty can be handed down only if the accuser has specifically decided to seek it.

In the decades since Furman, new questions have emerged about whether or not prosecutorial arbitrariness has replaced sentencing arbitrariness. A study by Pepperdine University School of Law published in Temple Law Review, surveyed the decision-making process among prosecutors in various states. The authors found that prosecutors' capital punishment filing decisions remain marked by local "idiosyncrasies", suggesting they are not in keeping with the spirit of the Supreme Court's directive. This means that "the very types of unfairness that the Supreme Court sought to eliminate" may still "infect capital cases". Wide prosecutorial discretion remains because of overly broad criteria. California law, for example, has 22 "special circumstances", making nearly all premeditated murders potential capital cases.[64]

A proposed remedy against prosecutorial arbitrariness is to transfer the prosecution of capital cases to the state attorney general.[65]


Of the 31 states with the death penalty, 29 provide the sentence to be decided by a jury, and 28 require a unanimous sentence.

The only state which does not require a unanimous jury decision is Alabama. In Alabama, at least 10 jurors must concur. A retrial happens if the jury deadlocks.[66]

Nebraska is the only state in which the sentence is decided by a three-judge panel. If one of the judges on the panel opposes death, the defendant is sentenced to life imprisonment.[67]

Montana is the only state where the trial judge decides the sentence alone.[68]

In all states in which the jury is involved, only death-qualified veniremen can be selected in such a jury, to exclude both people who will always vote for the death sentence and those who are categorically opposed to it.

However, the states differ on what happens if the penalty phase results in a hung jury:[69][70]

  • In four states (Arizona, California, Kentucky and Nevada), a retrial of the penalty phase will be conducted before a different jury (the common-law rule for mistrial).[71]
  • In two states (Indiana and Missouri), the judge will decide the sentence.
  • In the 22 other states, a hung jury results in a life sentence, even if only one juror opposed death. Federal law also provides that outcome.

The first outcome is referred as the "true unanimity" rule, while the third has been criticized as the "single-juror veto" rule.[72]

Direct review

If a defendant is sentenced to death at the trial level, the case then goes into a direct review.[73] The direct review process is a typical legal appeal. An appellate court examines the record of evidence presented in the trial court and the law that the lower court applied and decides whether the decision was legally sound or not.[74] Direct review of a capital sentencing hearing will result in one of three outcomes. If the appellate court finds that no significant legal errors occurred in the capital sentencing hearing, the appellate court will affirm the judgment, or let the sentence stand.[73] If the appellate court finds that significant legal errors did occur, then it will reverse the judgment, or nullify the sentence and order a new capital sentencing hearing.[75] Lastly, if the appellate court finds that no reasonable juror could find the defendant eligible for the death penalty, a rarity, then it will order the defendant acquitted, or not guilty, of the crime for which he/she was given the death penalty, and order him sentenced to the next most severe punishment for which the offense is eligible.[75] About 60 percent survive the process of direct review intact.[76]

State collateral review

At times when a death sentence is affirmed on direct review, supplemental methods to attack the judgment, though less familiar than a typical appeal, do remain. These supplemental remedies are considered collateral review, that is, an avenue for upsetting judgments that have become otherwise final.[77] Where the prisoner received his death sentence in a state-level trial, as is usually the case, the first step in collateral review is state collateral review, which is often called state habeas corpus. (If the case is a federal death penalty case, it proceeds immediately from direct review to federal habeas corpus.) Although all states have some type of collateral review, the process varies widely from state to state.[78] Generally, the purpose of these collateral proceedings is to permit the prisoner to challenge his sentence on grounds that could not have been raised reasonably at trial or on direct review.[79] Most often, these are claims, such as ineffective assistance of counsel, which requires the court to consider new evidence outside the original trial record, something courts may not do in an ordinary appeal. State collateral review, though an important step in that it helps define the scope of subsequent review through federal habeas corpus, is rarely successful in and of itself. Only around 6 percent of death sentences are overturned on state collateral review.[80]

In Virginia, state habeas corpus for condemned men are heard by the state supreme court under exclusive original jurisdiction since 1995, immediately after direct review by the same court.[81] This avoids any proceeding before the lower courts, and is in part why Virginia has the shortest time on average between death sentence and execution (less than eight years) and has executed 113 offenders since 1976 with only five remaining on death row as of June 2017.[82][83]

To reduce litigation delays, other states require convicts to file their state collateral appeal before the completion of their direct appeal,[84] or provide adjudication of direct and collateral attacks together in a "unitary review".[85]

Federal habeas corpus

After a death sentence is affirmed in state collateral review, the prisoner may file for federal habeas corpus, which is a unique type of lawsuit that can be brought in federal courts. Federal habeas corpus is a type of collateral review, and it is the only way that state prisoners may attack a death sentence in federal court (other than petitions for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court after both direct review and state collateral review). The scope of federal habeas corpus is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), which restricted significantly its previous scope. The purpose of federal habeas corpus is to ensure that state courts, through the process of direct review and state collateral review, have done a reasonable job in protecting the prisoner's federal constitutional rights. Prisoners may also use federal habeas corpus suits to bring forth new evidence that they are innocent of the crime, though to be a valid defense at this late stage in the process, evidence of innocence must be truly compelling.[86] According to Eric Freedman, 21 percent of death penalty cases are reversed through federal habeas corpus.[80]

James Liebman, a professor of law at Columbia Law School, stated in 1996 that his study found that when habeas corpus petitions in death penalty cases were traced from conviction to completion of the case, there was "a 40 percent success rate in all capital cases from 1978 to 1995".[87] Similarly, a study by Ronald Tabak in a law review article puts the success rate in habeas corpus cases involving death row inmates even higher, finding that between "1976 and 1991, approximately 47 percent of the habeas petitions filed by death row inmates were granted".[88] The different numbers are largely definitional, rather than substantive: Freedam's statistics looks at the percentage of all death penalty cases reversed, while the others look only at cases not reversed prior to habeas corpus review.

A similar process is available for prisoners sentenced to death by the judgment of a federal court.[89]

The AEDPA also provides an expeditious habeas procedure in capital cases for states meeting several requirements set forth in it concerning counsel appointment for death row inmates.[90] Under this program, federal habeas corpus for condemned prisoners would be decided in about three years from affirmance of the sentence on state collateral review. In 2006, Congress conferred the determination of whether a state fulfilled the requirements to the U.S. attorney general, with a possible appeal of the state to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. As of March 2016, the Department of Justice has still not granted any certifications.[91]

Section 1983

If the federal court refuses to issue a writ of habeas corpus, the death sentence becomes final for all purposes. In recent times, however, prisoners have postponed execution through another way of federal litigation using the Civil Rights Act of 1871 - codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - which allows people to bring lawsuits against state actors to protect their federal constitutional and statutory rights.

While the aforementioned appeals are normally limited to one and automatically stay the execution of the death sentence, Section 1983 lawsuits are unlimited, but the petitioner will be granted a stay of execution only if the court believes he has a likelihood of success on the merits.[92]

Traditionally, Section 1983 was of limited use for a state prisoner under sentence of death because the Supreme Court has held that habeas corpus, not Section 1983, is the only vehicle by which a state prisoner can challenge his judgment of death.[93] In the 2006 Hill v. McDonough case, however, the United States Supreme Court approved the use of Section 1983 as a vehicle for challenging a state's method of execution as cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The theory is that a prisoner bringing such a challenge is not attacking directly his judgment of death, but rather the means by which that the judgment will be carried out. Therefore, the Supreme Court held in the Hill case that a prisoner can use Section 1983 rather than habeas corpus to bring the lawsuit. Yet, as Clarence Hill's own case shows, lower federal courts have often refused to hear suits challenging methods of execution on the ground that the prisoner brought the claim too late and only for the purposes of delay. Further, the Court's decision in Baze v. Rees, upholding a lethal injection method used by many states, has narrowed the opportunity for relief through Section 1983.

Execution warrant

While the execution warrant is issued by the governor in several states, in the vast majority it is a judicial order, issued by a judge or by the state supreme court at the request of the prosecution.

The warrant usually sets an execution day. Some states instead provide a longer period, such as a week or 10 days to carry out the execution. This is designated to avoid issuing a new warrant in case of a last-minute stay of execution that would be vacated only few days or few hours later.[94]

Distribution of sentences

Total number of prisoners on Death Row in the United States from 1953 to 2008

Within the context of the overall murder rate, the death penalty cannot be said to be widely or routinely used in the United States; in recent years the average has been about one death sentence for every 200 murder convictions.

Alabama has the highest per capita rate of death sentences. This is because Alabama was one of the few states that allowed judges to override a jury recommendation in favor of life imprisonment, a possibility it removed in March 2017.[95][96]

Among states

The distribution of death sentences among states is loosely proportional to their populations and murder rates. California, which is the most populous state, has also the largest death row with over 700 inmates. Wyoming, which is the least populous state, has only one condemned man.

But executions are more frequent (and happen more quickly after sentencing) in conservative states. Texas, which is the second most populous state of the Union, carried out over 500 executions during the post-Furman era, more than a third of the national total. California has carried out only 13 executions during the same period.[97][98][99]

Among races

African Americans made up 41% of death row inmates while making up only 12.6% of the general population. They have made up 34% of those actually executed since 1976. However, this is an under-representation relative to the proportion of convicted murderers; 52.5% of all homicide offenders between 1980 and 2008 were African Americans.[100] According to a 2003 Amnesty International report, blacks and whites were the victims of murder in almost equal numbers, yet 80% of the people executed since 1977 were convicted of murders involving white victims.[101]

Approximately 13.5% of death row inmates are of Hispanic or Latino descent, while they make up 17.4% of the general population.[102]

Among sexes

As of October 1, 2016, the Death Penalty Information Center reports that there are only 54 women on death row. This constitutes 1.86% of the total death row population. 16 women have been executed since 1976,[103] while 1442 men have been executed.[104] 15,391 total confirmed lawful executions have been carried out in the US since 1608, and of these, 575, or 3.6%, were women. Women account for 1/50 death sentences, 1/67 people on death row, and 1/100 people whose executions are actually carried out. The states that have executed the most women are California, Texas and Florida. For women, the racial breakdown of those sentenced to death is 21% black, 13% Latina, 2% American Indian, 61% white and 3% Asian.[103]


Usage of lethal injection in the US.
  State uses only this method.
  State uses this method primarily but also has other methods.
  State once used this method, but does not today.
  State once adopted this method, but dropped before its use.
  State has never adopted this method.
Number of executions each year by the method used in the United States and the earlier colonies from 1608 to 2004. The adoption of electrocution caused a marked drop off in the number of hangings, which was used even less with the use of gas inhalation. After Gregg v. Georgia, most states changed to lethal injection, leading to its rise.

All 31 states with the death penalty provide lethal injection as the primary method of execution.

Some states allow other methods than lethal injection, but only as secondary methods to be used merely at the request of the prisoner or if lethal injection is unavailable.[105][106]

Several states continue to use the historical three-drug protocol: an anesthetic, pancuronium bromide a paralytic, and potassium chloride to stop the heart.[107] Eight states have used a single-drug protocol, inflicting only an overdose of a single anesthetic to the prisoner.[107]

While some state statutes specify the drugs required, a majority do not, giving more flexibility to corrections officials.[107]

Pressures from anti-death penalty activists and shareholders have made it difficult for correctional services to get the chemicals. Hospira, the only U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, stopped making the drug in 2011.[108] In 2016, it was reported that more than 20 U.S. and European drug manufacturers including Pfizer (the owner of Hospira) had taken steps to prevent their drugs from being used for lethal injections.[108][109][110]

Since then, some states have used other anesthetics, such as pentobarbital, etomidate,[111] or fast-acting benzodiazepines like midazolam.[112] Many states have since bought lethal injection drugs from foreign furnishers, and most states have made it a criminal offense to reveal the identities of furnishers or execution team members.[108][113] In November 2015, California adopted regulations allowing the state to use its own public compounding pharmacies to make the chemicals.[114]

In 2009, Ohio approved the use of an intramuscular injection of 500 mg of hydromorphone (a 333-fold overdose for an opioid-naïve patient of this narcotic analgesic closely related to and five times stronger than morphine; this is the equivalent of an entire 50-ml bottle of Dilaudid HP, the most powerful commercially available form, although the advantage of hydromorphone is its very high solubility allowing for solutions of almost arbitrary concentration; 500 mg of hydromorphone HCl as pure powder can be dissolved in isotonic saline in volumes as small as under 2 cc)[115] and a supratherapeutic dose of midazolam as a backup means of carrying out executions when a suitable vein cannot be found for intravenous injection.[116][117]

Lethal injection was held to be a constitutional method of execution by the U.S. Supreme Court in two cases: Baze v. Rees (2008) and Glossip v. Gross (2015).[118][119]

Offender-selected methods

In the following states, death row inmates with an execution warrant may choose to be executed by:[105][106]

In five states (Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Utah), the alternative method is offered only to inmates sentenced to death for crimes committed prior to a specified date (usually when the state switched from the earlier method to lethal injection).

When an offender chooses to be executed by a means different from the state default method, which is always lethal injection, he/she loses the right to challenge its constitutionality in court. See Stewart v. LaGrand, 526 US 115 (1999).

The last executions by methods other than injection are as follows (all chosen by the inmate):

Method Date State Inmate
Electrocution January 16, 2013 Virginia Robert Gleason
Firing squad June 18, 2010 Utah Ronnie Lee Gardner
Lethal gas March 3, 1999 Arizona Walter LaGrand
Hanging January 25, 1996 Delaware William Bailey

Backup methods

Depending on the state, the following alternative methods are statutorily provided in the event that lethal injection is either found unconstitutional by a court or unavailable for practical reasons:[105][106][120]

  • Electrocution in Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.
  • Gas inhalation in Alabama, California, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
  • Firing squad in Oklahoma and Utah.
  • Hanging in New Hampshire.

Oklahoma is the only state allowing more than two methods of execution in its statutes, providing lethal injection, nitrogen hypoxia, electrocution and firing squad to be used in that order in the event that all earlier methods are unavailable. The nitrogen option was added by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2015 and has never been used in a judicial execution, though it is routinely used to give a painless death in animal euthanasia.[121]

Three states (Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah) have added back-up methods recently in 2014 or 2015 (or have expanded their application fields) in reaction to the shortage of lethal injection drugs.[122]

Some states such as Florida have a larger provision dealing with execution methods unavailability, requiring their state departments of corrections to use "any constitutional method" if both lethal injection and electrocution are found unconstitutional. This was designed to make unnecessary any further legislative intervention in that event, but the provision applies only to legal (not practical) infeasibility.[123][124]

In May 2016, an Oklahoma grand jury recommended the state to use nitrogen hypoxia as its primary method of execution rather than as a mere backup, after experts testified that the method would be painless, easy and "inexpensive".[125]

Federal executions

The method of execution of federal prisoners for offenses under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 is that of the state in which the conviction took place. If the state has no death penalty, the judge must choose a state with the death penalty for carrying out the execution.

The federal government has a facility (at U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute) and regulations only for executions by lethal injection, but the United States Code allows U.S. Marshals to use state facilities and employees for federal executions.[126][127]

Execution attendance

The over 200 witnesses to the execution of Timothy McVeigh were mostly survivors and victims' relatives of the Oklahoma City bombing.

The last public execution in the U.S. was that of Rainey Bethea in Owensboro, Kentucky, on August 14, 1936.

It was the last execution in the nation at which the general public was permitted to attend without any legally imposed restrictions. "Public execution" is a legal phrase, defined by the laws of various states, and carried out pursuant to a court order. Similar to "public record" or "public meeting", it means that anyone who wants to attend the execution may do so.

Around 1890, a political movement developed in the United States to mandate private executions. Several states enacted laws which required executions to be conducted within a "wall" or "enclosure", or to "exclude public view". Most states laws currently use such explicit wording to prohibit public executions, while others do so only implicitly by enumerating the only authorized witnesses.[128]

All states allow news reporters to be execution witnesses for information of the general public, except Wyoming which allow only witnesses authorized by the condemned.[129][130][131] Several states also allow victims' families and relatives selected by the prisoner to watch executions. An hour or two before the execution, the condemned is offered religious services and to choose his last meal (except in Texas which abolished it in 2011).

The execution of Timothy McVeigh on June 11, 2001, was witnessed by over 200 people, most by closed-circuit television.

Public opinion

Gallup, Inc. monitors support for the death penalty in the United States since 1937 by asking "Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?" Gallup surveys document a sharp increase in support for capital punishment between 1966 and 1994 clearly in response to rising violent crime rates during this period (e.g. Page and Shapiro 1992.) However, with the dramatic surge in arguments questioning the fairness of the sentence (due, in part, to DNA exonerations of death row inmates in the national media in the late 1990s (Baumgartner, De Boef, and Boydstun 2004 The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence ),[132] support then began to wane, falling from 80% in 1994 to 66% in 2000. Moreover, approval varies substantially depending on the characteristics of the target and the alternatives posed, with much lower support for putting juveniles and the mentally ill to death (26% and 19%, respectively, in 2002) and for the alternative of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (52% in 2003) Gallup 2005). Given the fact that attitudes toward this policy are often responsive to events, to characteristics of the target, and to alternatives, the conventional wisdom—that death penalty attitudes are impervious to change—is surely overstated. Accordingly, any analysis of death penalty attitudes must account for the responsiveness of such attitudes, as well as their reputed resistance to change[133]

In the October 2016 Gallup poll, 60% of respondents said they were in favor and 37% were opposed.[134]

Pew Research polls have demonstrated declining American support for the death penalty: 80% in 1974, 78% in 1996, 55% in 2014, and 49% in 2016.[135][136] The 2014 poll showed significant differences by race: 63% of whites, 40% of Hispanics, and 36% of blacks, respectively, supported the death penalty in that year.

A 2010 poll found that 61% of voters would choose a penalty other than the death sentence for murder.[137] When persons surveyed are given a choice between the death penalty and life without parole for persons convicted of capital crimes, support for execution has traditionally been significantly lower than in polling that asks only if a person does or does not support the death penalty. In 2010, for instance, a Gallup poll that offered a choice showed 49% favoring the death penalty, and 46% favoring life imprisonment.[138]

On the other hand, in November 2009, another Gallup poll found that 77% of Americans say that September 11 attacks' mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should get the death penalty if convicted, including 12 who normally opposed the death penalty when asked the 1937 question.[139] A similar result was found in 2001 when respondents were polled about the execution of Timothy McVeigh for the Oklahoma City Bombing that killed 168 victims.[140]


The Morality, Ethicality and Effectiveness of Capital Punishment

Capital punishment is a controversial issue, with many prominent organizations and individuals participating in the debate. Amnesty International and other groups oppose capital punishment on moral grounds.

Some law enforcement organizations, and some victims' rights groups support capital punishment.

The United States is one of three developed countries , that still practice capital punishment, along with Japan, Singapore.

Religious groups are widely split on the issue of capital punishment.[141] The Fiqh Council of North America, a group of highly influential Muslim scholars in the United States, has issued a fatwa calling for a moratorium on capital punishment in the United States until various preconditions in the legal system are met.[142]

In October 2009, the American Law Institute voted to disavow the framework for capital punishment that it had created in 1962, as part of the Model Penal Code, "in light of the current intractable institutional and structural obstacles to ensuring a minimally adequate system for administering capital punishment". A study commissioned by the institute had said that experience had proved that the goal of individualized decisions about who should be executed and the goal of systemic fairness for minorities and others could not be reconciled.[143] As of 2017, 159 prisoners have been exonerated due to evidence of their innocence.[137][144][8]

Advocates of the death penalty say that it deters crime, is a good tool for prosecutors in plea bargaining,[145] improves the community by eliminating recidivism by executed criminals, provides "closure" to surviving victims or loved ones, and is a just penalty.

The murder rate is highest in the South (6.5 per 100,000 in 2016), where 80% of executions are carried out, and lowest in the Northeast (3.5 per 100,000), with less than 1% of executions. A report by the US National Research Council in 2012 stated that studies claiming a deterrent effect are "fundamentally flawed" and should not be used for policy decisions.[137]

According to a survey of the former and present presidents of the country’s top academic criminological societies, 88% of these experts rejected the notion that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. (Radelet & Lacock, 2009)[137]

Data shows that the application of the death penalty is strongly influenced by racial bias.[137] Furthermore, some opponents argue that it is applied in an arbitrary manner by a criminal justice system that has been shown to be biased through the systemic influence of socio-economic, geographic, and gender factors.[146] Another argument in the capital punishment debate is the cost.[147][137]

Various commentators predicted that the death penalty would likely have disappeared in the United States if Hillary Clinton had been elected U.S. President in November 2016 and allowed to appoint a liberal Supreme Court Justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia. Because Donald Trump won and citizens in three states voted the same day for ballot measures supporting capital punishment, columnists came to the conclusion that it will remain indefinitely.[148][149][150]

Clemency and commutations

The largest number of clemencies was granted in January 2003 in Illinois when outgoing Governor George Ryan, who had already imposed a moratorium on executions, pardoned four death-row inmates and commuted the sentences of the remaining 167 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.[151] When Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois in March 2011, he commuted the sentences of the fifteen inmates on death row to life imprisonment.[35]

Previous post-Furman mass clemencies took place in 1986 in New Mexico, when Governor Toney Anaya commuted all death sentences because of his personal opposition to the death penalty. In 1991, outgoing Ohio Governor Dick Celeste commuted the sentences of eight prisoners, among them all four women on the state's death row. And during his two terms (1979-1987) as Florida's Governor, Bob Graham, although a strong death penalty supporter who had overseen the first post-Furman involuntary execution as well as 15 others, agreed to commute the sentences of six people on the grounds of doubts about guilt or disproportionality.

Execution hiatus

All executions were suspended through the country between September 2007 and April 2008. At that time, the U.S. Supreme Court was examining the constitutionality of lethal injection in Baze v. Rees. This was the longest period with no executions in the United States since 1982. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld this method in a 7-2 ruling.

In addition to the states that have no valid death penalty statute, the following states and jurisdictions are noted that have an official moratorium, or have had no executions for more than ten years, as of 2018:

State / Jurisdiction Status Hiatus status[152]
Federal de facto No executions since 2003
Military de facto No executions since 1961
Arizona by Attorney General In 2014, Attorney General indefinitely stayed executions
California de facto No executions since 2006[153]
Colorado by Governor In 2013, Governor set a moratorium
Kentucky by court order In 2009, a federal judge suspended executions pending a new protocol[154]
Montana by court order In 2015, a federal judge ruled the state's lethal injection protocol is unlawful, stopping executions[155]
Nebraska de facto Last execution took place in 1997
Nevada de facto Last execution in 2006
North Carolina de facto Last execution in 2006
Oklahoma by implementers In 2014, state Dept. of Corrections recommended an indefinite hold on executions after a botched execution
Oregon by Governor In 2011, Governor announced a moratorium and a review
Pennsylvania by Governor In 2015, Governor announced a moratorium pending review
Washington by Governor In 2014, Governor announced a moratorium and reprieve for new cases
Wyoming de facto No executions since 1992

Kansas, New Hampshire, Wyoming, and the U.S. Military have also had no executions for over ten years, but in these states it is because of the lack of death row inmates having exhausted the appeal process.

Since 1976, four states have executed only condemned prisoners who voluntarily waived further appeals: Pennsylvania has executed three inmates, Oregon two, Connecticut one, and New Mexico one.

In North Carolina, executions are suspended following a decision by the state's medical board that physicians cannot participate in executions, which is a requirement under state law.

In California, United States District Judge Jeremy Fogel suspended all executions in the state on December 15, 2006, ruling that the implementation used in California was unconstitutional but that it could be fixed.[156]

On November 25, 2009, the Kentucky Supreme Court suspended executions until the state adopts regulations for carrying out the penalty by lethal injection.[157]

In November 2011, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced a moratorium on executions in Oregon, canceling a planned execution and ordering a review of the death penalty system in the state.[158]

On February 11, 2014, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced a capital punishment moratorium. All death penalty cases that come to Inslee will result in him issuing a reprieve, not a pardon or commutation.[159]

On February 13, 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on the death penalty. Wolf will issue a reprieve for every execution until a commission on capital punishment, which was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania State Senate, produces a recommendation.[160] Effectively there was a moratorium in place, as the state had not executed anyone since Gary M. Heidnik in 1999.

See also


  1. ^ "States and capital punishment". National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved June 23, 2017. 
  2. ^ Leigh B. Bienen (2010). Murder and Its Consequences: Essays on Capital Punishment in America (2 ed.). Northwestern University Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-8101-2697-8. 
  3. ^ "Lethal injection". capitalpunishmentuk.org. Retrieved March 16, 2016. China...Guatemala, Philippines, Thailand...Vietnam 
  4. ^ a b Barry Latzer (2010), Death Penalty Cases: Leading U.S. Supreme Court Cases on Capital Punishment, Elsevier, p.37.
  5. ^ "Death Sentences in the United States From 1977 By State and By Year". Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved April 24, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b "Execution Statistics Summary -- State and Year". people.smu.edu/rhalperi/. Retrieved January 26, 2017. 
  7. ^ "Innocence: List of Those Freed From Death Row". Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved April 21, 2017. 
  8. ^ a b Dwyer-Moss, Jessica (2013) "Flawed Forensics and the Death Penalty: Junk Science and Potentially Wrongful Executions", Seattle Journal for Social Justice: Vol. 11 : Iss. 2, Article 10. (p.760)
  9. ^ "Facts about the Death Penalty" (PDF). Death Penalty Information Center. p. 2. Retrieved April 21, 2017. 
  10. ^ Death Penalty Information Center (2010). "Part I: History of the Death Penalty, Death Penalty Information Center". Retrieved April 12, 2011. 
  11. ^ david waksman. "Is there a Death Penalty in America?". 
  12. ^ "History of the Death Penalty in America". Antideathpenalty.org. Retrieved December 1, 2011. 
  13. ^ "BAZE v. REES (No. 07-5439) [April 16, 2008] Justice Scalia, with whom Justice Thomas joins, concurring in the judgment". law.cornell.edu. Retrieved April 7, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Espy file". Deathpenaltyinfo.org. Retrieved December 1, 2011. 
  15. ^ Department of Justice Archived 2009-12-11 at the Wayback Machine. of the United States of America
  16. ^ "The U.S. Military Death Penalty". Deathpenaltyinfo.org. Archived from the original on May 22, 2008. Retrieved December 1, 2011. 
  17. ^ John A. Bennett
  18. ^ "Executions in the Military". Deathpenaltyinfo.org. Retrieved December 1, 2011. 
  19. ^ a b "Death penalty on the ballot". ballotpedia.org. Retrieved April 6, 2016. 
  20. ^ The Courts, the Constitution, and Capital Punishment 118 (1977)
  21. ^ The Free Lance-Star - Jun 30, 1972 : New laws unlikely on death penalty, by Barry Schweid
  22. ^ Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976)
  23. ^ Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976)
  24. ^ Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325 (1976), 431 U.S. 633 (1977)
  25. ^ "Godfrey v. Georgia". supreme.justia.com. Retrieved March 24, 2016. 
  26. ^ "DARYL RENARD ATKINS, PETITIONER v. VIRGINIA". June 20, 2002. Retrieved August 6, 2006. 
  27. ^ Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)
  28. ^ Mears, Bill (June 25, 2008). "Child rapists can't be executed, Supreme Court rules". CNN. Retrieved May 7, 2017. 
  29. ^ Sara Kugler (June 25, 2008). "Obama Disagrees With High Court on Child Rape Case". ABC News. Archived from the original on May 24, 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2017. 
  30. ^ Powell, Michael (April 13, 2005). "In N.Y., Lawmakers Vote Not to Reinstate Capital Punishment". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 31, 2009. NEW YORK, April 12 -- New York's death penalty is no more. A legislative committee tossed out a bill Tuesday aimed at reinstating the state's death penalty, which a court had suspended last year. It was an extraordinary bit of drama, not least because a top Democrat who once strongly supported capital punishment led the fight to end it. 
  31. ^ "Top court: Delaware's death penalty law unconstitutional". Retrieved April 14, 2017. 
  32. ^ Richburg, Keith B. (December 14, 2007). "N.J. Approves Abolition of Death Penalty; Corzine to Sign". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  33. ^ (in English) Maria Medina, « Governor OK with Astorga capital case »
  34. ^ "New Mexico governor bans death penalty". Agence France-Presse. March 18, 2009. Archived from the original on December 23, 2009. Retrieved December 23, 2009. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson made his state the 15th in the nation to outlaw capital punishment when he signed a law abolishing the death penalty, his office said. 
  35. ^ a b "Quinn signs death penalty ban, commutes 15 death row sentences to life". Chicago Tribune. March 9, 2011. Retrieved March 9, 2011. 
  36. ^ "RECENT LEGISLATION: Death Penalty Repeal Passes Second Connecticut House, Awaits Governor's Signature Death Penalty Information Center". Deathpenaltyinfo.org. April 12, 2012. Retrieved April 30, 2012. 
  37. ^ "Connecticut governor signs bill to repeal death penalty". FOX News Network, LLC. April 25, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2012. 
  38. ^ Wagner, John (March 16, 2013). "Md. General Assembly repeals death penalty". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 15, 2013. 
  39. ^ "Clemency". deathpenaltyinfo.org. Retrieved April 6, 2016. 
  40. ^ "Connecticut's highest court overturns its death penalty". cnn.com/. Retrieved April 6, 2016. 
  41. ^ "Voters in California, Oklahoma, and Nebraska chose to preserve and strengthen the death penalty". news.vice.com. Retrieved November 9, 2016. 
  42. ^ "USA Executions 2016 (as of 12/8/16)". people.smu.edu. Retrieved March 16, 2017. 
  43. ^ "Obama's non-Dukakis answer". nbcnews.com. Retrieved April 8, 2016. 
  44. ^ Borg and Radelet, pp. 144-147
  45. ^ Van Norman p. 287
  46. ^ Paternoster, R. (2012-09-18). Capital Punishment. Oxford Handbooks Online. Retrieved 15 June 2016, from http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195395082.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780195395082-e-24.
  47. ^ "Part I: History of the Death Penalty Death Penalty Information Center". deathpenaltyinfo.org. Retrieved 2017-11-08. 
  48. ^ Robinson, Conway (1906). "Notes from Council and General Court Records". The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 13 (4): 389–401. doi:10.2307/4242764. 
  49. ^ Karlsen, Carol F. (1998-04-17). The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393347197. 
  50. ^ "Mary Surratt's Story - Surratt House Museum". www.surrattmuseum.org. Retrieved 2017-11-08. 
  51. ^ "Velma Margie Barfield #29". www.clarkprosecutor.org. Retrieved 2017-11-08. 
  52. ^ "Wanda Jean Allen #687". www.clarkprosecutor.org. Retrieved 2017-11-08. 
  53. ^ Baker, David V. (2015-12-31). Women and Capital Punishment in the United States: An Analytical History. McFarland. ISBN 9781476622880. 
  54. ^ "Homicide - Section 190.2". law.justia.com. Retrieved March 24, 2016. 
  55. ^ "630:1 Capital Murder". law.justia.com. Retrieved March 24, 2016. 
  57. ^ "AN ACT relating to the murder of a child as a capital offense". legis.state.tx.us. Retrieved March 24, 2016. 
  58. ^ "Official recommendations on the fair administration of the death penalty in california". ccfaj.org. Retrieved March 24, 2016. 
  59. ^ Charles Lane (2010), Stay of Execution: Saving the Death Penalty from Itself, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, p.110-111
  60. ^ Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407, 437 (2007); see also Greenhouse, Linda (June 26, 2008). "Supreme Court Rejects Death Penalty for Child Rape". The New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2011. The court went beyond the question in the case to rule out the death penalty for any individual crime - as opposed to "offenses against the state", such as treason or espionage - "where the victim's life was not taken". 
  61. ^ "§ 3401. Definition and punishment of treason". legislature.vermont.gov. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  62. ^ "Death Penalty for Offenses Other Than Murder". Death Penalty Information Center. 2008. Archived from the original on February 21, 2008. Retrieved January 28, 2008. 
  63. ^ See generally Separation of powers.
  64. ^ "Unpredictable Doom and Lethal Injustice: An Argument for Greater Transparency in Death Penalty Decisions". Journalist's Resource.org. 
  65. ^ Adam M. Gershowitz. "Statewide Capital Punishment: The Case for Eliminating Counties' Role in the Death Penalty". Retrieved March 20, 2016. 
  66. ^ "SB 16 To amend Sections 13A-5-45, 13A-5-46, and 13A-5-47, Code of Alabama 1975, relating to capital cases and to the determination of the sentence by courts; to prohibit a court from overriding a jury verdict". legislature.state.al.us. Retrieved April 12, 2017. 
  67. ^ "2014 Nebraska Revised Statutes - Chapter 29 - CRIMINAL PROCEDURE - 29-2521 - Sentencing determination proceeding". law.justia.com. Retrieved April 16, 2017. 
  68. ^ "46-18-301. Hearing on imposition of death penalty". leg.mt.gov. Retrieved April 16, 2017. 
  69. ^ "Provisions of state and federal statutes concerning sentence if capital sentencing jury cannot agree" (PDF). A. Parrent, Conn. Public Def. Retrieved March 15, 2016. 
  70. ^ "SB 280: Sentencing for Capital Felonies". flsenate.gov. Retrieved March 15, 2017. 
  71. ^ See United States v. Perez, 1824
  72. ^ K. Scheidegger, "Hurst v. Florida Remedial Legislation and SBP 7068", February 4, 2016
  73. ^ a b See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 3595. ("In a case in which a sentence of death is imposed, the sentence shall be subject to review by the court of appeals upon appeal by the defendant.")
  74. ^ See generally Appeal.
  75. ^ a b Poland v. Arizona, 476 U.S. 147 152-154 (1986).
  76. ^ Eric M. Freedman, "Giarratano is a Scarecrow: The Right to Counsel in State Postconviction Proceedings, Legalize Drugs" 91 Cornell L. Rev. 1079, 1097 (2001)
  77. ^ Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 306 (1989).
  78. ^ LaFave, Israel, & King, 6 Crim. Proc. § 28.11(b) (2d ed. 2007).
  79. ^ LaFave, Israel, & King, 6 Crim. Proc. § 28.11(a) (2d ed. 2007).
  80. ^ a b Eric M. Freedman, "Giarratano is a Scarecrow: The Right to Counsel in State Postconviction Proceedings", 91 Cornell L. Rev. 1079, 1097 (2006).
  81. ^ "Code of Virginia - § 8.01-654. When and by whom writ granted; what petition to contain". Law.lis.virginia.gov. Retrieved March 22, 2016. 
  82. ^ "Virginia's execution history". vadp.org. Retrieved June 4, 2017. "VIRGINIA'S DEATH ROW INMATES". vadp.org. Retrieved June 4, 2017. 
  83. ^ "Conviction to Execution "Takes Too Long"". ktrh.com. Retrieved March 22, 2016. 
  84. ^ "OJP Docket No. 1464, Certification Process for State Capital Counsel Systems" (PDF). crimeandconsequences.com. Retrieved March 15, 2017. 
  85. ^ "AN ACT Concerning a unitary procedure for review in class 1 felony cases in which a death sentence is sought as punishment". tornado.state.co.us. Retrieved March 15, 2017. 
  86. ^ House v. Bell, 126 S. Ct. 2064 (2006)
  87. ^ "Habeas Corpus Studies". The New York Times. April 1, 1996. Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  88. ^ Walpin, Ned. "The New Speed-up in Habeas Corpus Appeals". Frontline. PBS. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  89. ^ see 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
  90. ^ 28 USC §§ 2261 - 2266
  91. ^ "Court Gives Green Light to Death Penalty Fast-Tracking". abcnews.go.com. Retrieved March 24, 2016. 
  92. ^ "Glossip v. Gross 576 U.S. ___ (2015)". justia.com. Retrieved March 20, 2016. 
  93. ^ "Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994)". Law.cornell.edu. Retrieved December 1, 2011. 
  94. ^ "2014 Georgia Code - § 17-10-34 - Sentence to specify time period for and place of execution". law.justia.com. Retrieved April 3, 2016. 
  95. ^ "Death Penalty". Equal Justice Initiative. Retrieved October 29, 2013. 
  96. ^ "Alabama ends death penalty by judicial override". Associated Press at WBRL. March 11, 2017. Retrieved March 13, 2017. 
  97. ^ Lundin, Leigh. "Executed Prisoners in Texas". Last Words. Criminal Brief. Retrieved November 5, 2010. 
  98. ^ Lundin, Leigh (August 22, 2010). "Last Words". Capital Punishment. Criminal Brief. 
  99. ^ "Facts about the Death Penalty" (PDF). Death Penalty Information Center. p. 3. Retrieved April 21, 2017. 
  100. ^ "Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008" (PDF). p. 3. 
  101. ^ "United States of America: Death by discrimination - the continuing role of race in capital cases". Amnesty.org. April 23, 2003. Retrieved April 30, 2012. 
  102. ^ "Hispanics and the Death Penalty". Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 
  103. ^ a b "Women and the Death Penalty Death Penalty Information Center". deathpenaltyinfo.org. Retrieved 2017-11-08. 
  104. ^ "Facts About the Death Penalty" (PDF). 
  105. ^ a b c "Methods of Execution". clarkprosecutor.org. Retrieved March 28, 2016. 
  106. ^ a b c "Methods of Execution". deathpenaltyinfo.org. Retrieved March 28, 2016. 
  107. ^ a b c "State by State Lethal Injection". Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved May 14, 2016. 
  108. ^ a b c Eckholm, Erik (2016-05-13). "Pfizer Blocks the Use of Its Drugs in Executions". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-05-14. 
  109. ^ Richmond, Ben (October 28, 2013). "Will the EU kill America's Death Penalty?". Motherboard. Vice Media, Inc. Archived from the original on November 2, 2013. Retrieved November 5, 2013. 
  110. ^ Algar, Clare (October 22, 2013). "Big Pharma May Help End The Death Penalty". The New Republic. Retrieved November 5, 2013. 
  111. ^ The Washington Post: A death penalty landmark for Florida: Executing a white man for killing a black man
  112. ^ Liptak, Adam (2015-06-29). "Supreme Court Allows Use of Execution Drug". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  113. ^ "Secret Execution Team, Firing Squads, Restricted Media Included in House Bill". jacksonfreepress.com. Retrieved April 6, 2016. 
  114. ^ "Notice of change to regulations" (PDF). cdcr.ca.gov. Retrieved May 22, 2016. 
  115. ^ Mosby's 2004 "Hydromorphone"
  116. ^ "Ohio Prisons Director Announces Changes to Ohio's Execution Process". Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. November 13, 2009. Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  117. ^ "Arizona execution takes two hours". BBC News. July 24, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-24. 
  118. ^ "High court upholds lethal injection method". Cable News Network (CNN). April 16, 2008. Retrieved June 30, 2017. 
  119. ^ "Supreme Court backs use of lethal injection drug". Cable News Network (CNN). June 29, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2017. 
  120. ^ South Carolina Code of Laws: "Section 24-3-530. Death by electrocution or lethal injection". law.justia.com. Retrieved June 4, 2016. 
  121. ^ The Dawn of a New Form of Capital Punishment, Time, April 17, 2015
  122. ^ "How to kill: America's death penalty dilemma". cnn.com. Retrieved March 28, 2016. 
  123. ^ "922.105 - Execution of death sentence". leg.state.fl.us. Retrieved March 28, 2016. 
  124. ^ "40-23-114 - Death by lethal injection Election of electrocution". law.justia.com. Retrieved March 30, 2016. 
  125. ^ "Oklahoma grand jury issues critical report on execution drug mix-up". newsok.com. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  126. ^ "§ 26.3 Date, time, place, and method of execution". law.cornell.edu. Retrieved March 15, 2017. 
  127. ^ "18 U.S. Code § 3597 - Use of State facilities". law.cornell.edu. Retrieved March 15, 2017. 
  128. ^ Connecticut § 54-100 Kentucky 431.220 Missouri § 546.730 New Mexico § 31-14-12 ch. 279 Massachusetts § 60North Carolina § 15-188 Oklahoma Title 22 § 1015 Montana § 46-19-103 Ohio § 2949.22 Tennessee § 40-23-116 US Code Title 18 § 3596 Federal regulations 28 CFR 26.4 Archived 2014-01-18 at the Wayback Machine.
  129. ^ "Texas Execution Information - Texas Execution Primer". www.txexecutions.org. Retrieved August 5, 2015. 
  130. ^ "States go hunting for execution witnesses". jacksonsun.com. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  131. ^ "Wyoming Code § 7-13-908". law.justia.com. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  132. ^ Baumgartner. De Boef, Boydstun, Frank, Suzanna, Amber (2011). The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521715249. 
  133. ^ http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00293.x/full
  134. ^ "U.S. Death Penalty Support at 60%". gallup.com. Retrieved August 30, 2017. 
  135. ^ Oliphant, Baxter (2016-09-29). "Support for death penalty lowest in more than four decades". Dactank; News in Numbers. Pew Research Centre. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  136. ^ "Shrinking Majority of Americans Support Death Penalty". Pew Research Center. 28 March 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2018. 
  137. ^ a b c d e f "Facts about the Death Penalty" (PDF). Death Penalty Information Center. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  138. ^ "In U.S., 64% Support Death Penalty in Cases of Murder". The Gallup Organization. November 8, 2010. Retrieved November 15, 2010. 
  139. ^ "Americans at Odds With Recent Terror Trial Decisions". gallup.com. Retrieved April 10, 2016. 
  140. ^ "Foes of death penalty say McVeigh is an exception". usatoday.com. Retrieved April 10, 2016. 
  141. ^ "ReligiousTolerance". ReligiousTolerance. Retrieved December 1, 2011. 
  142. ^ [1][dead link]
  143. ^ Adam Lipak (January 4, 2010). "Group Gives Up Death Penalty Work". The New York Times. 
  144. ^ "Innocence: List of Those Freed From Death Row". Death Penalty Information Center. October 28, 2010. Retrieved March 11, 2011. 
  145. ^ Pitkin, James (January 23, 2008). "Killing Time Dead Men Waiting on Oregon's Death Row". Willamette Week. Archived from the original on January 24, 2008. Retrieved March 11, 2011. 
  146. ^ Londono, O. (2013), "A Retributive Critique of Racial Bias and Arbitrariness in Capital Punishment". Journal of Social Philosophy, 44: 95-105. doi: 10.1111/josp.12013
  147. ^ "Letter - Cost of the Death Penalty". The New York Times. California. February 28, 2009. Retrieved December 1, 2011. 
  148. ^ "Trump can't break the Supreme Court". washingtonpost.com. January 25, 2017. Retrieved June 23, 2017. 
  149. ^ "Tom Dolgenos: Under Trump, death penalty likely to remain". mcall.com. January 23, 2017. Retrieved June 23, 2017. 
  150. ^ "Capital Punishment After the 2016 Elections". www.fed-soc.org. February 6, 2017. Retrieved June 23, 2017. 
  151. ^ "Illinois Death Row Inmates Granted Commutation by Governor George Ryan on January 12, 2003". Deathpenaltyinfo.org. Retrieved December 1, 2011. 
  152. ^ "California moves - slowly - toward resuming executions". seattletimes.com. Retrieved May 25, 2017. California has long been what one expert calls a "symbolic death penalty state", one of 12 that has capital punishment on the books, but has not executed anyone in more than a decade. 
  153. ^ "The History of Capital Punishment in California". California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation. State of California. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  154. ^ "Kentucky Judge Rules Against Lethal Injection Protocol and Halts Execution". Death Penalty Information Center. Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  155. ^ Bellware, Kim. "Montana Judge Strikes Down State's Lethal Injection Protocol". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  156. ^ Judge says executions unconstitutional Archived December 22, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  157. ^ Musgrave, Beth (November 26, 2009). "Decision halts lethal injections Latest Local, State News". Kentucky.com. Retrieved December 1, 2011. 
  158. ^ Jung, Helen (November 22, 2011). "Gov. John Kitzhaber stops executions in Oregon, calls system 'compromised and inequitable'". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 22, 2011. 
  159. ^ "Executions Are Suspended by Governor in Washington". The New York Times. February 11, 2014. 
  160. ^ Berman, Mark (February 13, 2015). "Pennsylvania's governor suspends the death penalty". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 15, 2015. 
  • Marian J. Borg and Michael L. Radelet. (2004). On botched executions. In: Peter Hodgkinson and William A. Schabas (eds.) Capital Punishment. pp. 143–168. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511489273.006.
  • Gail A. Van Norman. (2010). Physician participation in executions. In: Gail A. Van Norman et al. (eds.) Clinical Ethics in Anesthesiology. pp. 285–291. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511841361.051.

Further reading


Journal articles

External links


There is a moral divide within the United States that appears when we separate our states by non-capital punishment and capital punishment states. Currently there are 31 states with the death penalty and 19 states without the death penalty. Additionally, the states that carry the highest percent of executions since 1976 are in the southern region of the U.S. at 82% of the total, while the northern states carry on 1% of the total ("New Report from DPIC Death Penalty Information Center."). Every year since 1990 those states with capital punishment have held higher murder rates, and “The Times reports that ten of the twelve states without the death penalty have homicide rates below the national average, whereas half of the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above.” ("Deterrence: States Without the Death Penalty Have Had Consistently Lower Murder Rates Death Penalty Information Center.") Although this outcome cannot be explained with a single construct, a contributing factor could be the quality of defense counsel provided to someone charged with murder. For instance, Florida has promised to improve the quality of defense counsel after the execution of 77 death row inmates since 1976-the most of any state, but have only set aside $400,000 to reopen a single public defender office. (Emily, “Two Americas”) The reason why there is the increasing use of the death penalty in Florida is that they don’t focus on the quality of provided defense counsel, and to compound the situation the legislature has committed to speed up of the pace of executions. This has led to 34 death row inmates missing the one-year deadline for filing an appeal in federal court and two of these inmates being executed due to this missed legal opportunity. Multiple states of The United States specifically tried shifting the law to limit crimes punishable by death such as in 1682, in Pennsylvania, only the person who was charged with treason or murder would receive capital punishment. Today only 7 states have performed executions since January 1, 2014 (“States and the Death Penalty”). It is an indication that the decision for killing a person, regardless of their status as a citizen, has increasingly becoming a difficult decision for the U.S. government particularly as they compare themselves to the rest of the world.

On November 30, 1786, Tuscany, a region in central Italy, was the first modern state to abolish the death penalty. Changing the history of the death penalty was a critical decision that had an impact on the rest of the world, because following that change multiple countries and states around the world abolished the death penalty, such as: France (October 26, 1795), Rhode Island (The first state of United States to abolish the death penalty in 1852), Venezuela (1863), Costa Rica (1877), Uzbekistan (2008), New Mexico State (March, 2009), Nebraska State (May, 2015) and so on (13 Ways of Looking at the Death Penalty, Timeline: From Death to Life) Human beings are attempting to get rid of the death penalty and it is a similar movement to when people were against slavery and child labor. Getting rid of capital punishment will have a positive effect on the entire world, especially from a moral point of view. Moreover, a lot of countries have already abolished the death penalty, which has proven that current humanity is in favor of a peaceful resolution when addressing punishment for gross criminal offenses in our society.


  • Bazelon, Emily. “In Most of the Country, the Death Penalty Is Disappearing. In the South, It Lives On.” Slate Magazine, 6 May 2014,


  • "Deterrence: States Without the Death Penalty Have Had Consistently Lower Murder Rates Death Penalty Information Center." DPIC Death Penalty Information Center, [3].
  • Dieter, Richard C."Race and the Death Penalty Death Penalty Information Center." DPIC Death Penalty Information Center, [4]. Accessed 3 Apr. 2018.
  • Dieter, Richard C. "The Death Penalty in Black and White: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides Death Penalty Information Center." DPIC Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty Information Center, [5]. Accessed 27 Mar. 2018.
  • Dolan, Maura. “Study Finds Death Penalty Unevenly Applied.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 4 June 1998, [6].
  • Holsinger, Anne. "Deterrence: States Without the Death Penalty Have Had Consistently Lower Murder Rates Death Penalty Information Center." DPIC Death Penalty Information Center, [7].
  • Horowitz, Evan. "Tsarnaev Execution Would Likely Come with a Long, Costly Wait - The Boston Globe." BostonGlobe.com, 23 Apr. 2015, [8].
  • Muller, Robert. "Death Penalty May Not Bring Peace to Victims' Families." Psychology Today, 19 Oct. 2016, [9].
  • Marazziti, Mario. 13 Ways of Looking at the Death Penalty. Seven Stories P, 2015.
  • "New Report from DPIC Death Penalty Information Center." DPIC Death Penalty Information Center, [10]. Accessed 3 Apr. 2018.
  • Whitman, James Q. Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide between America and Europe. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.