Death Penalty Statistics

The death penalty remains a contentious topic. Whether the state has the right to take a person’s life is a question that raises moral, spiritual, political, and economic concerns. For a short period in the early to mid 1970s, these concerns caused the United States Supreme Court to rule that the death penalty statutes of many states were unconstitutional. Consequently, very few executions were performed during the time period. In 1976, however, the Supreme Court began ruling that the death penalty is appropriate under certain circumstances. As a result, many states rewrote their death penalty statutes and the number of executions rose.

How are Executions Performed?

The technology and methods involved in state-run executions have evolved greatly over the years. For the first 150 years of the country’s existence, prisoners were executed either through hanging or by firing squad. That changed in the 1880’s when the electric chair was invented. Electrocution became the standard method for executions until 1982, when lethal injection was used for the first time.

As of the early twenty-first century, lethal injections remain the preferred method for execution. Although occasionally other methods are used – in 2013, an inmate was executed by electrocution – the vast majority of executions are performed by lethal injection.

Who Gets Executed?

The number and type of executions vary widely from year to year and from state to state. Since the invention of the lethal injection procedure in 1982, there has been an average of 46 people executed per year. Approximately half of the deceased were white people, one third were African-Americans, and the remainder were of other races. The overwhelming majority of executed individuals have been men; less than 1% have been women.

Statistics for 2001-2010

In the first decade of the 21st century, there were 551 executions in 27 states:

  • 8 people (1.5%) were executed by electrocution, 1 (.2%) by firing squad, and the rest (98.3%) were executed by lethal injection.
  • 317 (57.5%) people were white, 180 people (32.6%) were black, 45 (8.2%) people were Latino, 6 people (1.1%) were Native American, 1 person (.2%) was Asian, and two people were listed as “other.”
  • 7 (1.3%) people executed were female, and the rest were male.
  • Texas had the most executions by far with 225 (40.8%) executions. The state with the second most executions was Oklahoma with 64 (11.6%) executions.

Which States have the Death Penalty?

Most states practice capital punishment. As of 2013, 33 states still use the death penalty:

Alabama

Louisiana

Pennsylvania

Arizona

Maryland

South Carolina

Arkansas

Mississippi

South Dakota

California

Missouri

Tennessee

Colorado

Montana

Texas

 

Delaware

Nebraska

Utah

 

Florida

Nevada

Virginia

 

Georgia

New Hampshire

Washington

Idaho

North Carolina

Wyoming

 

Indiana

Ohio

   

Kansas

Oklahoma

 

Kentucky

Oregon

   

 

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As you can see, the death penalty is still alive and well in many states. Although it only applies in certain cases, it's just a reminder of the power that the government can have when depriving you of your freedoms through the criminal justice process. If you're facing criminal charges, it's critical that you have a strong criminal defense attorney on your case to ensure that your rights are protected and to advocate on your behalf. Reach out to a local defense attorney today and receive a review of your case at no charge to you.

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