The Death Penalty

What’s Fact, What’s Fiction about Capital Punishment in the U.S.

Lethal Injection Chair

More than 1,400 American prisoners have been killed by execution since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre. As of August 2015, 31 American states allow prisoners to be put to death by lethal injection, electrocution, firing squad or other means.

However, another 19 states – most recently Nebraska – have joined the movement to reject capital punishment.

The Nebraska legislature brought the issue back to centre stage in late May with a landmark decision to ban the death penalty in that state.

Organizations such as The Innocence Project have helped keep the debate alive, citing statistics such as the fact more than 40% of the cases it handled has involved wrongful convictions and the “cruel and unusual” punishment of botched executions.

Here are some other facts about the Death Penalty you may not know:

  • Only 36 countries in the world allow capital punishment, and they are hardly U.S. allies – ie. Sudan, Libya and Saudi Arabia.
  • There are currently just over 3,000 inmates on death row in the United States.
  • Murder rates are consistently lower in states without the penalty. 
  • The majority of the world’s leading criminologists (88%) share the viewpoint that capital punishment fails to deter crime.
  • There is no evidence that it assists law enforcement – contrary to public belief, police are most at risk of being killed or injured in states where the death penalty exists.
  • Since 1973, more than 150 people have been released from death row with evidence they were innocent. 10 of the exonerations since 2013 took place 30 years or more after the original conviction.
  • 34 states plus the U.S. government use lethal injection as their main method of death for inmates, although some also have other means available to them as a backup.
  • In 2010, a poll by Lake Research Partners found that more than 60% of voters would choose other punishment beyond the death penalty for murder.
  • The number of prisoners executed in 2014 was less than half than in 1999 (98 executions).
  • 73 people were sentenced to death in the U.S. in 2014 – the lowest level in 40 years.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty for juveniles in 2005.
  • Last year, seven states carried out executions and 80% were in Texas, Missouri and Florida.
  • In 2012, the average murder rate in a death penalty state was 4.7, while states without the death penalty ranked at 3.7.

Sources: Death Penalty Information Centre The Innocence Project and PrisonLawBlog.com

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