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Death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is what many states call the punishment which ends with execution of the perpetrator. The process is usually done by injecting a deadly drug into the criminal’s body. 

Even though some people might be quite surprised by the fact that the death penalty still exists in the 21st century, some democratical countries have it as part of their legal system. That’s why we have included the most significant death penalty statistics as well as death penalty facts for you to check. 

Despite the fact that many countries have abolished the death punishment, others still have it. Some of those are China, Iran, the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea

Check out some of the most significant capital punishment facts we collected at The High Court.

Intriguing Death Penalty Facts (Editor’s Picks)

  • In 2020, 34 US states have either abolished the death sentence or have gone 10 years without an execution.
  • 15% of people sentenced to death between 1973 and 2009 had been executed by the end of 2009.
  • 59% of all executions in 2020 were conducted by the Federal Government.
  • The longest someone has been on death row is over 41 years.
  • In 2014, the US was ranked among the top five executors.
  • By the end of 2019, 106 countries had completely abolished the death penalty.
  • Nicholas Sutton in Tennessee was the fifth prisoner over 16 months to choose electrocution instead of a lethal injection.

US Historic Death Penalty Facts and Statistics

1. Between 1976 to 2010, a total of 1,234 people were executed in the US.

(Source: NAP)

There were a greater number of executions in the US before World War II. The highest number of executions took place in 1935 (199). After the war, the number of executions gradually decreased to 0 in the late 1960s.

The facts on the death penalty reveal there were no executions between 1967 and 1972, even though this action was legal. With the Furman decision in 1972, executions became illegal until 1976. But, with the Gregg decision (1976), executions became more common, and the number gradually increased to 98 in 1999.

The stats of death penalty show that by 2005, the number of executions again decreased to 53. Between 2005 and 2010 the number remained stable, with 50 executions made yearly.

This is just the most recent data. But if you wonder when did the death penalty start in the US, sources point out that it existed as early 1630s colonial America.

death penalty statistics

2. 5% of people sentenced to death between 1973 and 2009 had been executed by the end of 2009, death penalty statistics reveal.

(Source: NAP)

When someone gets a death sentence, execution should follow. But in practise, that’s not always the case. Bureau of Justice stats on death penalty reveal 15% of those sentenced to death were executed between 1973 and 2009. 46% of the cases ended differently – in reversed convictions, death of the inmate, or commuted sentences.

What’s more:

In December 2009, 39% of the defendants sentenced to death were still on death row. On average, the inmates were on death row for more than 12 years. As the number of executions per year declined, the death row population gradually increased in this timeframe, death penalty in the USA facts show.

Finally, over 400 inmates were facing a death sentence in 1977. In 2009, there were about 3,200 inmates sentenced to death as per the US death penalty statistics.

3. In North Carolina between 2005 and 2006, 4% of murder arraignments were capitally prosecuted and ultimately sentenced to death.

(Source: NAP)

One study looks at whether cases treated as capital eligible by prosecutors are likely to result in a death sentence. The study looked at the death penalty statistics by state. In North Carolina between 2005 and 2006, 26.5% or 1,034 murder arraignments were first charged as capital offenses. 4% of those were capitally prosecuted and finally sentenced to death. The study showed that, although cases were treated as capital eligible, they are unlikely to result in a death penalty.

4. Between 1973 and 2009, 37.6% of executions took place in Texas.

(Source: NAP)

In the same timeline, the number of executions in Florida, Texas, and Virginia amounted to 52.2%. In part, the executions are rather concentrated because of the more common imposition of the death sentence by the courts in these three states. 

In other states, like California and Pennsylvania, courts impose quite a large number of death penalties, but the number of executions by state varies significantly.

5. Four people have survived an execution in the US.

(Source: ABC)

Amongst the few survivors in the history of death penalty was 17 year-old Willie Francis, whose execution failed during the first attempt because the chair malfunctioned. Later, when the inmate was 18, after an appeal of his case was taken to the US Supreme Court and failed, he was executed. This was in 1947.

Another interesting fact has to do with the last public execution in the United States.

The last person publicly executed was Rainey Bethea who confessed to both raping and murdering an old woman. Click To Tweet

6. The longest anyone has been on death row is over 41 years.

(Source: History Collection)

According to the death penalty facts, Raymond Riles is one of inmates who served the longest of all time in the US. He was convicted for murder in 1974 and sentenced to death the following year. The reason Riles hasn’t been executed is mental illness. He is currently still on death row. 

7. Nicholas Sutton in Tennessee was the fifth prisoner over 16 months to choose electrocution instead of a lethal injection, death penalty statistics confirm.

(Source: AP News)

In February 2020, the execution of Nicholas Sutton was on an electric chair, which is not common practice nowadays due to the introduction of the lethal injection. Sutton was sentenced to death for killing an inmate in a conflict over a drug deal in prison. A serial killer, Sutton was serving his time in prison for 3 killings when he was 18 years old.

8. In 2019, 7 US states have executed a total of 22 prisoners. 

(Source: Death Penalty Info)

According to death penalty statistics for 2019, the capital punishment is becoming less common. For instance, New Hampshire was the 21st state to abolish the death penalty, and Indiana marked the 10 years without an execution.

9. A 2010 poll by Lake Research Partners shows that about 61% of voters would choose punishment other than the death penalty for murder. 

(Source: Death Penalty Info)

Facts supporting the death penalty reveal only 33% of people would choose a death penalty for murder, while the rest would go for other methods. Some of those are the following – 13% would impose life without parole, 9% life with parole, 39% life without parole plus restitution, and 6% had no opinion upon it. Murder is one crime that gets the death penalty.


Death Penalty in the USA Statistics for 2020

10. Q1 2020 set the pace for a sixth consecutive year with fewer than 50 new death sentences and 30 or fewer executions in the US.

(Source: DPIC)

If we look at 2020 in regards to the death penalty in the United States, four drivers have shaped the landscape. 

First, the nation has been drifting away from capital punishment. 

Second, the COVID-19 crisis had a significant influence. 

Third, the protests for racial injustice spread nationwide largely contributed, and finally, the influence of the Federal administration.

11. In 2020, 34 states have either abolished the death penalty or gone 10 years without an execution.

(Source: ABA)

The latest US death penalty facts show that, in 2020, more states had abolished the death penalty, and a greater number of counties had elected prosecutors who pledged to never seek the death penalty. 

Now:

Regardless of the six-month spree of Federal executions, unseen in the 20th or 21st centuries, fewer executions were carried out in 2020 compared to any year in nearly three decades

For the first time in US history, the Federal Government is responsible for executing more civilians than all states combined. This marked as an outlier the Federal Government’s death-penalty practices compared to the executions in the death penalty states.

12. In 2020, there were 2,620 people on death row in the US.

(Source: NAACP)

As per the death row statistics for 2020, out of those people, 1,103 defendants were white, 1,089 were Black, 353 were Latino/Latina, 27 were Native American, and 47 were Asian. Furthermore, 2,567 of the defendants were men (97,98%), and 53 were women (2.02%).

13. In 2020, 55% of respondents supported the death penalty.

(Source: Gallup)

The number of people opposing the death penalty as per the statistics against death penalty is at its peak since the 1960s, with 43% of the respondents opposing it in 2020. Public support of the death penalty is almost half as low compared to 1994, when 80% of respondents were in favor of the death penalty.

14. Between 1976 and January 2021, there were 1,529 executions.

(Source: DPIC)

The most commonly used methods for executions in the US have been hanging, firing squad, the gas chamber, and lethal injection. Although state courts declared some methods unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has never found one of these methods to be unconstitutional. 

According to the capitol punishment statistics, lethal injections have been the preferred and predominant method of execution in the US in the modern era. Out of those 1,529 executions, 1,349 were by lethal injection.

One of the death penalty interesting facts is that drug companies refused to provide drugs for a lethal injection. As a result, since some states do not allow any other means of executions, the executions were delayed. Consequently, the death penalty rate has declined.  


Federal Death Penalty Executions

15. 59% of all executions in 2020 were conducted by the Federal Government.

(Source: DPIC)

Additionally, the executions were made in less than six months. The facts on the death penalty show that no prior president has authorised that many executions in the past two centuries.

The Trump Administration scheduled more transition-period executions than in any presidential transition before, facts about capital punishment confirm. Click To Tweet

But that’s not all:

This action drew opposition from prosecutors, religious leaders, law experts, EU officials, and Native American leaders.

16. In 2014, the US was one of the top five executors.

(Source: HRW)

Although, these results were devastating regardless of the death penalty pros facts, there have been some positive developments at the state level. New Mexico, Illinois and Connecticut were states with death penalty that recently abolished it and recognized the US growing isolation on this issue. In February 2015, Pennsylvania introduced a moratorium on executions.

17. In 2018, 30 US states and the Federal Bureau of Prisoners (BOP) held 2,628 prisoners who were sentenced to death.

(Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics)

As per the death penalty statistics for 2018, compared to the previous year, the number of prisoners who were sentenced to death was lower by 3% from 2017

In fact, in 2017, the number of prisoners who were sentenced to death was 2,703, higher by 75 prisoners. These death row facts about the constant falling of the numbers of prisoners sentenced to death throughout the years has brought significant hope that the death penalty might be abolished in the future.


Death Penalty by Countries

18. By the end of 2019, 106 countries had completely abolished the death penalty.

(Source: Amnesty International)

The same year, 657 people were executed. Keep in mind the death penalty statistics worldwide do not include China, though. Compared to 2018, the number of executions has dropped by 5%.

19. In 2014, 607 executions were recorded worldwide.

(Source: HRW)

In 1977 only 16 countries had abolished capital punishment, in 2015, 140 countries have done so in law or practice. Globally, death penalty has been recognized as a cruel punishment and inhuman act. 

However, as per the death penalty by country stats, over 607 executions were recorded worldwide in 2014. At the same time, almost 20,000 people were on a death row globally.

20. 29 executions were carried out in the Asia-Pacific region in 2019.

(Source: Amnesty International)

Now, let’s take a look at what countries have the death penalty in the Asia-Pacific region:

The Pacific was an execution-free region in 2014 according to the statistics on capital punishment. On the other hand, executions are not uncommon in Asia. In 2019, seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region carried out executions. A total of 29 executions were carried – 3 in Japan and 4 in Singapore, to name but a few. 

Again, these death penalty statistics do not include the executions carried out in China, which aren’t classified. Nor do they include figures from North Korea. Bangladesh carried two executions, and Taiwan, Thailand, and Afghanistan reported hiatuses. In Pakistan, 14 men were hanged.

21. China was the world’s top executioner, with over 1,000 executions in 2014.

(Source: Amnesty International)

This amounts to about three executions per day. The total number of executions carried out in China is higher than the combined number of all executions in all the rest of the world.

These are, however, unofficial numbers as the actual number of executions is a state secret. 

The same goes for North Korea and Vietnam. As a result, it is difficult to obtain reliable death penalty statistics for these countries.


Conclusion

It’s rather surprising to learn that the death penalty is still lawful in many developed countries, including democracies. The most recent facts about the death penalty showed that the Federal Government carried out most executions in the US.

What’s more:

2020 was definitely not a good year when it comes to the death penalty in the US. Globally, many NGOs have been reporting on these issues for years and addressing the violation of human rights. Also, many studies that investigate the violent crime rates death penalty relationship have concluded the death penalty has no appreciable effect on crime.

On the other hand, at least for the US, there’s a death penalty fact sheet on a yearly basis that contains all the statistical data. For other countries, such as China and North Korea, the number of people executed remains a state secret. 


FAQ

Q: What crimes are punishable by death in the US?

There are 41 crimes that are punishable by death in the US. Here are some of the death penalty crimes:

  • Causing death by using a chemical weapon or a weapon of mass destruction
  • Murder, kidnapping resulting in death or conspiracy to kill any member of the Cabinet, the Supreme Court, or Congress
  • Death due to using explosive
  • Murder with an illegal firearm
  • Causing death in a drive-by shooting
  • Genocide resulting in death
  • Death throughout carjacking
  • Mailing explosive substances that will result in death
  • Destructing aircraft or vehicles that will result in death
  • Causing death by kidnapping or taking hostages
  • First-degree murder 
  • Murder committed by a federal prisoner
  • Sexual abuse resulting in death
  • Torture resulting in death

Q: How many people have been killed by the death penalty?

Since 1976, when the court affirmed the legality of the capital punishment for the case of Gregg v. Georgia, around 7800 defendants have been sentenced to death penalty. However, out of those, only 1529 people have been executed. It has to be noted that executions have declined over the past two decades. 

Q: Is the death penalty effective statistics?

According to death penalty stats, there isn’t any evidence that the death penalty is more effective than long-term imprisonment – life in prison vs. death penalty. In fact, states that have the death penalty crime law don’t have lower crime rates than states which haven’t got such a law. Also, the states that have abolished the capital punishment haven’t seen any type of change when it comes to crime or murder rates.

Q: Has anyone been executed in 2020?

According to the death penalty statistics for 2020, 17 prisoners were executed in 2020 in 5 US states. 

Q: Has the death penalty reduced crime rates?

There hasn’t been a deterrent effect on crime with the introduction of the death penalty. Even though there have been assumptions that the abolition of the death penalty would result in a higher crime rate, studies don’t back them up. Capital punishment statistics reveal the death penalty has a brutalizing effect on society.

In fact, crime-related death penalty statistics show that many crimes happen on the spur of the moment. So, there is no opportunity for criminals to think about the potential penalties before committing a crime. Additionally, the capital punishment can be a source of further violence. This is because once criminals have committed a capital offence, they have no interest in lessening the punishment they are going to get by staying away from trouble or committing other murders. 


Sources: 

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