On 1972-JUN-29, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case Furman v. Georgia. They ruled that the death penalty violated the 8th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. This decision terminated all executions in the U.S. "... until each state that wanted to reinstate it reworked their laws and procedures to meet [the new] Supreme Court guidelines." 1
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, The number of executions:
Increased during the following two decades as many states revised their sentencing laws. Executions increased rapidly reaching a peak of 98 during 1999.
Since then, executions have dropped, reaching 28 during 2015.
Meanwhile, during 2015, six death row inmates were exonerated of all charges. They were found to be not guilty of murder and released.
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has prepared the following graphic:
The number of death sentences between 1976 and 2015 are shown in BLACK as a percentage of their peak value. That was 315 sentences during the year 1996.
The number of executions are shown in RED as a percentage of their peak of 98 killings during 1999.
Public opinion is shown in BLUE as the number of percentage points change relative to the percentage support that existed in 1976:
Death sentences during 2015 in North America:
Canada effectively abolished the death penalty in mid-1976 by the enactment of a single federal law, Bill C-84. Death sentences for certain offences under the National Defence Act were retained until they were also abolished in 1998.
In the U.S. the death penalty is now largely a southern phenomenon:
All of the southernmost row of states from California to Florida sentenced at least one person to death row during 2015, except for New Mexico.
Except for Ohio and Pennsylvania, none of the remaining states sentenced anyone to death.
The three states with the largest number of death sentences were all southernmost states: California lead all other states by sennding 14 people to Death Row. Florida sentenced nine; Alabama six. Eleven other states sentenced from one to three persons to death row. The federal government sentenced one person. 3
The three states with the largest number of inmates on their death row are also among the southernmost row of states: As of 2015-JUL-01, California had 746 inmates, Florida had 400 and Texas had 265.
The Death Penalty Info Center published the following video on You Tube:
2015: Death Row changes during the year in various states:
Connecticut, Maryland, and New Mexico had previously abolished the death penalty for future cases, but still had inmates imprisoned in their death rows.
The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 4 to 3 that to execute any of the 12 inmates on death row -- now that the state had abandoned executions -- would violate the state constitution. Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote the opinion for the majority. He said:
"This state’s death penalty no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose. [Executing the men after the state’s ban went into effect would] violate the state constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.” 5
Maryland's Governor, Martin O'Malley (D) commuted the sentences of all of the state's four inmates to life imprisonment. 5
The future fate of New Mexico's two inmates was argued before the New Mexico Supreme Court during 2014-OCT. 5 As of 2016-JAN-15, the Court has apparently not issued its ruling.