Statistics

Facts and figures on the death penalty in the USA

Executions and death sentences

Since the resumption of the death penalty in 1976, 1539 people have been executed in the U.S. In 2020, 17 executions were carried out; in 2021, there have been 10 executions so far. After peaking at 98 executions in 1999, the number of death sentences carried out declined significantly.

The highest number of death sentences in the U.S., over 300 per year, was in the mid-1990s; since the beginning of the new millennium, the number of death sentences imposed each year has also declined significantly.

No
since
1976
DateNameStateMethod
153012.01.21Lisa MontgomeryFederal levelLethal injection
153114.01.21Corey JohnsonFederal levelLethal injection
153215.01.21Dustin HiggsFederal levelLethal injection
153319.05.21Quintin JonesTexasLethal injection
153430.06.21John HummelTexasLethal injection
153528.09.21Rick RhoadesTexasLethal injection
153605.10.21Ernest Lee JohnsonMissouriLethal injection
153721.10.21Willie B. Smith IIIAlabamaLethal injection
153828.10.21John Marion GrantOklahomaLethal injection
153917.11.21David Neal CoxMississippiLethal injection
No
since
1976
DateNameStateMethod
151315.01.20John GardnerTexasLethal injection
151429.01.20Donnie LanceGeorgiaLethal injection
151506.02.20Abel OchoaTexasLethal injection
151620.02.20Nicholas Todd SuttonTennesseeElectric chair
151705.03.20Nathaniel WoodsAlabamaLethal injection
151819.05.20Walter BartonMissouriLethal injection
151908.07.20Billy Joe WardlowTexasLethal injection
152014.07.20Daniel Lewis LeeFederalLethal injection
152116.07.20Wesley Ira PurkeyFederal levelLethal injection
152217.07.20Dustin Lee HonkenFederal levelLethal injection
152326.08.20Lezmond MitchellFederal levelLethal injection
152428.08.20Keith Dwayne NelsonFederal levelLethal injection
152522.09.20William Emmett LeCroyFederal levelLethal injection
152624.09.20Christopher Andre VialvaFederal levelLethal injection
152719.11.20Orlando HallFederal levelLethal injection
152810.12.20Brandon BernardFederal levelLethal injection
152911.12.20Alfred BourgeoisFederal levelLethal injection

For more information on executions, see the Death Penalty Information Center ‘s databases – Overview of Executions in the United States.

Public Opinion

A poll conducted regularly by the Gallup Institute shows that the above figures reflect public opinion: While approval of the death penalty in the U.S. was at a high of 80% in the mid-1990s, it was only 56% in the most recent recent polls.

When given the choice between the death penalty and life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, 60% of respondents most recently opted for imprisonment, and only 36% remained in favor of the death penalty.

Development in the states

The fact that the death penalty is on the decline in the United States overall is also evidenced by the fact that 11 U.S. states have abandoned it in the new millennium: New York (2004), New Jersey (2007), New Mexico (2009), Illinois (2011), Connecticut (2012), Maryland (2013), Delaware (2016), Washington (2018), New Hampshire (2019), Colorado (2020), Virginia (2021).

Currently, 27 U.S. states still have the death penalty on their statute books; 23 states abolished it in the 19th, 20th, or 21st centuries. Individual steps backward will not change this trend – such as the Trump administration’s resumption of executions at the federal level after 17 years in 2020.

StateExecutions from 1976 to presentExecution methodPeople on
Death Row
(DPIC 09/2020)
Death penalty
abolished?
Alabama67 Ex. Choice between
lethal injection
and electric chair
173 pers.
AlaskaAbolition (1957)
Arizona38 ex. Lethal injection;
for death sentence prior to
Nov. 1992, choice
between lethal injection or
gas chamber
120 pers.
Arkansas32 ex. Lethal injection;
if committed before July 4, 1983, choice between
lethal
injection or
electric chair
31 pers.
Colorado1 ex. (Lethal injection)Abolition (2020)
Connecticut1 ex.(Lethal injection)Abolition (2012)
Delaware16 Ex. Lethal injection;
if offense occurred before
6/13/1986, choice between lethal
injection and hanging
Delaware Supreme Court declares death penalty unconstitutional in 2016
Florida99 Ex.Choice between lethal
injection
and electric
chair
346 pers.
Georgia76 ex.Lethal injection45 pers.
HawaiiAbolition (1957)
Idaho3 ex.Lethal injection8 pers.
Illinois12 ex.(Lethal injection)Abolition (2011)
Indiana20 Ex.Lethal injection8 pers.
IowaAbolition (1965)
California13 Ex.Choice between
lethal injection
and gas chamber
724 pers.
Kansas0 ex.Lethal injection10 pers.
Kentucky3 ex.Lethal injection; choice between lethal injection and electric chair for death sentence before 3/31/199828 pers.
Louisiana28 ex.Lethal injection69 pers.
MaineAbolition (1887)
Maryland5 ex.(Lethal injection; choice between lethal injection and gas chamber for death sentence before 3/25/1994)Abolition (2013)
MassachusettsAbolition (1984)
MichiganAbolition (1847)
MinnesotaAbolition (1911)
Mississippi21 Ex.Lethal injection44 pers.
Missouri92 ex.Choice between
lethal injection
and gas chamber
23 pers.
Montana3 ex.Lethal injection2 pers.
Nebraska4 ex.Lethal injection12 pers.
Nevada12 ex.Lethal injection74 pers.
New Hampshire0 ex.(Lethal injection;
hanging if
injection not
possible)
1 pers. (Abolition not retroactive)Abolition (2019)
New Jersey0 Ex.Abolition (2007)
New Mexico1 ex.(Lethal injection)Abolition (2009)
New York0 Ex.New York Court of Appeals declares death penalty unconstitutional in 2004
North Carolina43 Ex.Lethal injection145 pers.
North DakotaAbolition (1973)
Ohio56 Ex.Lethal injection140 pers.
Oklahoma114 ex.Lethal injection;
electric chair
or shooting if injection not possible
47 pers.
Oregon2 ex.Lethal injection28 pers.
Pennsylvania3 ex.Lethal injection145 pers.
Rhode IslandAbolition (1984)
South Carolina43 Ex.Choice between
lethal injection
and electric chair
39 pers.
South Dakota5 ex.Lethal injection1 pers.
Tennessee13 ex.Lethal injection; choice between lethal injection and electric chair if offense occurred before 01/01/199951 pers.
Texas573 ex.Lethal injection217 pers.
Utah7 ex.Lethal injection; shoot to kill if injection not possible, and for prisoners who opted for shoot to kill before 5/03/047 pers.
Virginia113 Ex.(Choice between lethal injection and electric chair)Abolition (2021)
VermontAbolition (1972)
Washington5 Ex.Choice between
lethal injection
and hanging
8 pers.Washington Supreme Court declares death penalty unconstitutional in 2018
West VirginiaAbolition (1965)
WisconsinAbolition (1853)
Wyoming1 Ex.Lethal injection;
gas chamber if
injection not possible
1 pers.
District of ColumbiaAbolition (1981)
Puerto RicoAbolition (1929)
U.S. federal15 Ex.Lethal injection49 pers.
(Jan. 2021)
U.S. Armed Forces0 ex.Lethal injection5 pers.

For more information on states, see the Death Penalty Information Center ‘s databases – in the States Overview of U.S. States.

Execution Methods

Lethal injection has become the accepted method of execution throughout the United States. Classically, the three agents used were sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. Today, many states use pentobarbital as the sole agent. Other methods formerly used in the USA (electric chair, gas chamber, hanging, shooting) are now used only in exceptional cases.

However, for about a decade now, U.S. states have had more and more problems obtaining the necessary chemicals or drugs for lethal injection. Pharmaceutical companies mostly refuse to sell their products for the purpose of killing rather than curing.

Because of the shortage regarding drugs, several states have tried new chemicals – some of which have led to significant problems with executions. In January 2014, for example, Ohio made headlines because an execution using midazolam and hydromorphone lasted an unusually long time, about 25 minutes, with the condemned man gasping for breath for minutes. Six months later, Arizona used the same two drugs with the result that the executed man was pronounced dead only after two hours.

In addition, some states have statutorily specified alternative methods in the event that lethal injection cannot be administered, he said. For example, Tennessee alternatively allows the electric chair again and Utah the firing squad and New Hampshire hanging, and Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama provide for execution by nitrogen as an entirely new alternative method.

For more information on execution methods in the U.S. and lethal injection provisions in each state, visit the Death Penalty Information Center ‘s databases – the Execution Methods Overview and the Lethal Injection State Overview.


Source: Death Penalty Information Center