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. 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.
Approximately 13.5% of death row inmates are of "Hispanic or Latino descent, while they make up 17.4% of the general population.["better source needed]
As of October 1, 2014, men accounted for 98% of people currently on death row and 99% of executions since 1976.["better source needed]
All 31 states with the death penalty provide "lethal injection as the primary method of execution.
Several states continue to use the historical three-drug protocol: an "anesthetic, "pancuronium bromide a paralytic, and "potassium chloride to stop the heart. Eight states have used a single-drug protocol, inflicting only an overdose of a single anesthetic to the prisoner.
While some state statutes specify the drugs required, a majority do not, giving more flexibility to corrections officials.
Pressures from anti-death penalty activists and shareholders have since made it difficult for correctional services to get the chemicals, and most states have made it a criminal offense to reveal the identities of execution team members or furnishers of lethal injection drugs to avoid this. In 2015 imports of sodium thiopental for Texas and Arkansas from an Indian supplier not approved for the U.S. were seized by federal officials at airports.
Hospira, the only U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, stopped making the drug in 2011. Since then, some states have used other barbiturates, such as pentobarbital or "midazolam. 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.
In November 2015, California adopted regulations allowing the state to use its own public compounding pharmacies to make the chemicals. 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.
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.
Lethal injection has been held constitutional by the "U.S. Supreme Court two times in "Baze v. Rees (2008) and "Glossip v. Gross (2015).
In the following states, death row inmates with an execution warrant may choose to be executed by:
- "Electrocution in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
- "Gas inhalation in Arizona and California.
- "Firing squad in Utah.
- "Hanging in Washington.
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 loses the right to challenge its constitutionality in court (Stewart v. Lagrand, 1999).
The last executions by methods other than injection are as follows (all have chosen this method):
|"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|
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:
- Electrocution in Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.
- Gas inhalation in 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 painfree death in animal euthanasia.
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.
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 apply only to legal (not practical) infeasibility.
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 painfree, easy and "inexpensive".
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 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.
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.
But nearly all states allow news reporters to be execution witnesses for information of the general public. 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 a "last meal (except in Texas).
The execution of "Timothy McVeigh on June 11, 2001 was witnessed by around 300 people, some by closed-circuit television.
"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". The last poll in October 2016 gave 60% in favor and 37% opposed. A month earlier, a "Pew Research poll found that 49% of Americans supported the death penalty for convicted murderers and 42% opposed, down from 80% in 1974 and the lowest support in 40 years.
When given a choice between the death penalty and "life without parole, support has traditionally been significantly lower than polling which has only mentioned the death penalty. In 2010, for instance, one poll showed 49% favoring the death penalty and 46% favoring life imprisonment, while in another 61% said they preferred another punishment to the death penalty.
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, 12 more than those who opposed death penalty when asked the 1937 question. 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.
Capital punishment is a controversial issue, with many prominent organizations and individuals participating in the debate. "Amnesty International and some religions oppose capital punishment on moral grounds, while the "Innocence Project works to free wrongly convicted prisoners, including death row inmates, based on newly available DNA tests. Other groups, such as some law enforcement organizations, and some victims' rights groups support capital punishment.
The United States is one of only five industrialized democracies that still practice capital punishment. From the others, "Japan, "Singapore, and "Taiwan have executed prisoners, while "South Korea currently has a moratorium in effect.
Religious groups are widely split on the issue of capital punishment. 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.
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.
In total, 156 prisoners have been either acquitted, or received pardons or commutations on the basis of possible innocence, between 1973 and 2015. Death penalty opponents often argue that this statistic shows how perilously close states have come to undertaking "wrongful executions; proponents point out that the statistic refers only to those exonerated in law, and that the truly innocent may be a smaller number. Statistics likely understate the actual problem of wrongful convictions because once an execution has occurred there is often insufficient motivation and finance to keep a case open, and it becomes unlikely at that point that the miscarriage of justice will ever be exposed.
Arguments for and against "capital punishment are based on moral, practical, and religious grounds. Advocates of the death penalty argue that it deters crime, is a good tool for prosecutors (in "plea bargaining for example), improves the community by eliminating recidivism by executed criminals, provides closure to surviving victims or loved ones, and is a just penalty for the crimes it punishes.
Opponents argue that the death penalty is not an effective means of deterring crime, risks the "execution of the innocent, is unnecessarily barbaric in nature, cheapens human life, and puts a government on the same base moral level as those criminals involved in murder. Furthermore, some opponents argue that the arbitrariness with which it is administered and the systemic influence of racial, socio-economic, geographic, and gender bias on determinations of desert make the current practice of capital punishment immoral and illegitimate.
Another argument (specific to the United States) in the "capital punishment debate is the cost. The convict is more likely to use the whole appeals process if the jury issues a death sentence, than if it issues "life without parole. But, others, who contest this argument, say that the greater cost of appeals where the prosecution does seek the death penalty is offset by the savings from avoiding trial altogether in cases where the defendant pleads guilty to avoid the death penalty.
The American public has maintained its position of support for capital punishment for murder. However, when given a choice between the death penalty and "life imprisonment without parole, support has traditionally been significantly lower than polling which has only mentioned the death penalty as a punishment. In 2010, for instance, one poll showed 49 percent favoring the death penalty and 46 percent favoring life imprisonment while in another 61% said they preferred another punishment to the death penalty. The highest level of support for the death penalty recorded overall was 80 percent in 1994 (16 percent opposed), and the lowest recorded was 42 percent in 1966 (47 percent opposed). On the question of the death penalty vs. life without parole, the strongest preference for the death penalty was 61 percent in 1997 (29 percent favoring life), and the lowest preference for the death penalty was 47 percent in 2006 (48 percent favoring life).
After the September 2011 execution of "Troy Davis, believed by many to be innocent, Richard Dieter, the director of the "Death Penalty Information Center, said this case was a clear wake-up call to politicians across the United States. He said: "They weren't expecting such passion from people in opposition to the death penalty. There's a widely held perception that all Americans are united in favor of executions, but this message came across loud and clear that many people are not happy with it." Brian Evans of "Amnesty International, which led the campaign to spare Davis's life, said that there was a groundswell in America of people "who are tired of a justice system that is inhumane and inflexible and allows executions where there is clear doubts about guilt". He predicted the debate would now be conducted with renewed energy.
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. 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.
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 "possible innocence" or "disproportionality."
Suicide on death row and volunteering for execution
The suicide rate of death row inmates was found by Lester and Tartaro to be 113 per 100,000 for the period 1976–1999. This is about ten times the rate of suicide in the United States as a whole and about six times the rate of suicide in the general U.S. prison population.
Since the reinstitution of the death penalty to January 1, 2016, 143 prisoners have waived their appeals and asked that the execution be carried out. Four states (Connecticut, New Mexico, Oregon, and Pennsylvania) have executed only volunteers in the post-Furman era.
All executions were suspended through the country between September 2007 and April 2008, when the U.S. Supreme Court was examining the constitutionality of lethal injection in "Baze v. Rees, something unprecedented. It is the longest period with zero executions in the United States from 1982 to date. The method was ultimately upheld by a 7–2 margin.
In addition to the states that have no valid death penalty statute, the following states and jurisdictions have an official moratorium, or no executions for more than five years, as of 2016:
|State / Jurisdiction||Status||Hiatus status|
|"Federal||de facto||Since 2004, issues with lethal injection have delayed any executions; status unclear|
|"Arizona||by Attorney General||In 2014, Attorney General set a moratorium while investigating a botched execution|
|"Arkansas||de facto||In 2012, state supreme court ruled current law unconstitutional|
|"California||de facto||No executions since 2006|
|"Colorado||by Governor||In 2013, Governor indefinitely stayed executions due to unfairness of system|
|"Florida||de facto||In October 2016, state supreme court ruled current law unconstitutional|
|"Indiana||de facto||Last execution took place in 2009|
|"Kentucky||by court order||In 2010, a federal judge suspended executions pending a new protocol|
|"Louisiana||de facto||Last execution took place in 2010|
|"Montana||by court order||In 2015, a federal judge ruled the state's lethal injection protocol is unlawful, stopping executions|
|"Nevada||de facto||All executions halted due to lethal injection problems|
|"North Carolina||de facto||State medical board refused to let physicians participate, concerns about process|
|"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|
|"Tennessee||de facto||Last execution took place in 2009|
|"Washington||by Governor||In 2014, Governor announced a moratorium and reprieve for new cases|
Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, Kansas, New Hampshire, and the United States military have performed no executions. But in these jurisdictions, and in Wyoming, the lack of recent executions is caused by the absence of any condemned having yet 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.
On November 25, 2009, the "Kentucky Supreme Court suspended executions until the state adopts regulations for carrying out the penalty by lethal injection.
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.
Pharmaceutical companies whose products are used in the three-drug cocktails for lethal injections are predominantly European, and they have strenuously objected to the use of their drugs for executions and taken steps to prevent their use. For example, "Hospira, the sole American manufacturer of "sodium thiopental, the critical anesthetic in the three-drug cocktail, announced in 2011 that it would no longer manufacture the drug for the American market, in part for ethical reasons and in part because its transfer of sodium thiopental manufacturing to Italy would subject it to the "European Union's Torture Regulation, which forbids the use of any product manufactured within the Union for torture (as execution by lethal injection is considered by the Regulation). Since the drug manufacturers began taking these steps and the EU regulation ended the importation of drugs produced in Europe, the resulting shortage of execution drugs has led to or influenced decisions to suspend executions in Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
On June 22, 2012, the "Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the state's lethal injection law violates the "Arkansas Constitution, primarily on technical separation-of-powers grounds.
On February 11, 2014, Washington state 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.
In May 2014, Oklahoma Director of Corrections, Robert Patton, recommended an indefinite hold on executions in the state after the botched execution of "Clayton Lockett.
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 that was established in 2011 by the "Pennsylvania State Senate produces a recommendation. However, there was already an effective moratorium in place, since no one had been executed in Pennsylvania since "Gary M. Heidnik in 1999.
- "Capital punishment debate in the United States
- "Capital punishment by the United States federal government
- "List of United States Supreme Court decisions on capital punishment
- "List of offenders executed in the United States in 2017
- "List of death row inmates in the United States
- "List of last executions in the United States by crime
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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.
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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."
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