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CAPITAL PUNISHMENT; THE DEATH PENALTY

Summary of executions in the U.S.
Year 2000

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Misinformation of the year:

bullet"The United States is the only country in the industrialized world that still executes anyone, and executing children puts us in the company of Somalia -- only Somalia." Rosalynn Carter, in a speech before the American Bar Association at its 2002 Annual Conference.
bulletIn reality:
bulletJapan is an industrialized nation and executed six inmates in 1996. The death penalty is still on their books. Some of the inmates on death row have "been imprisoned for many years....often in total isolation." For them, death might be a blessing. 1
bullet The Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and 22 states in the U.S. are able to execute people who were children at the time of their crime.
bulletThe U.S. does not execute children. Twenty-two states can try 16 and 17 year-old children for murder and place them in storage on death row until they reach 18. Then, as adults, they can be murdered at any time.

Quotation:

bullet"The practice of executing such offenders is a relic of the past and is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency in a civilized society." Statement by U.S. Supreme Court Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Souter, referring to a sentence of death for juvenile offenders.

Overview:

The United States is one of the very few industrialized countries in the world which continues to execute criminals. Its worldwide reputation continues to suffer because of the continuing executions, and in particular because some states execute criminals who were children at the time of their offense, or who have a low IQ, or who are mentally ill.

Trends in executions:

The number of prisoners on death row who were murdered in 2002 increased slightly over 2001. However, the long-term trend appears to be downward. Future numbers are expected to drop because there has been a significant reduction in new death sentences in recent years.

Number of U.S. executions Value
Year 1999 98
Year 2000 85
Year 2001 66
Year 2002 71
Average per year since 1976 29
Total executions since 1976 820

Regional distribution of executions:

The death penalty is the U.S. is mainly applied in Southern states, as shown in the table below.

States with the death penalty have consistently had a much higher homicide rate that those states without the death penalty. Those who promote abolition of capital punishment often point to the homicide rate as evidence that the death penalty is ineffective as a deterrent, and may even be counterproductive. Those who support the death penalty often point to the same data as evidence that the death penalty is badly needed in their states to prevent the murder rate from being even higher.

Region Percentage of executions Homicide Rate, 2001*
South 86% 6.7
Midwest 13% ?
West 1% ?
Northeast 0% 4.2

* The homicide rate is measured per 100,000 persons during 2001.

And by comparison:

Canada

0%

2.0

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Leading death penalty states during 2002:

Texas, once again, is in a class by itself.

Region Number executions Percentage of executions
Texas 33 46.4%
Oklahoma 7 9.9%
Missouri 6 8.4%
Georgia 4 5.6%
Virginia 4 5.6%
Florida 3 4.2%
South Carolian 3 4.2%
Ohio 3 4.2%
Alabama 2 2.8%
North Carolina 2 2.8%
Mississippi 2 2.8%
California 1 1.4%
Louisiana 1 1.4%
DC & 38 states 0 0.0%

Execution of child criminals:

"For the second straight year, Texas was the only state to execute juvenile offenders." 3 Three inmates who were under 18 at the time of their offense were murdered by the state. "Of the 21 juvenile offenders executed in the U.S. since the death penalty was reinstated, 13 (62%) have been in Texas." 3

Additional data for the year 2002:

Many prisoners on death row awaiting execution have been proven innocent and released -- largely due to DNA evidence.

Item Value
Number of U.S. executions - 2002 71
Number of death row inmates exonerated and freed - 2002 4
Number of death row inmates exonerated and freed - 1973 to 2002 102
Number of inmates on death rows 3,697
Percentage of female inmates 1.5%

Future trends:

bulletIn spite of the slight increase in U.S. executions between 2001 and 2002, the number of new death sentences decreased significantly. They totaled 155 during the year 2002. This compares with an average of 296 death sentences per year between 1994 and 2000.
bulletThe Washington Post commented in late 2002 that "outside of a few states, the death penalty remains in decline....a few states account for the overwhelming majority of all executions. The more isolated they become, the greater the pressure for reform will be." 1,2
bulletIn 2002, Maryland became the second state (after Illinois) to recently declare a moratorium on executions. Unlike the moratorium in Illinois which was based on the large number of death row inmates found to be innocent, the Maryland decision was based on the unusually large number of blacks on death row, and the almost exclusive use of the death penalty against criminals who kill white victims. The governor-elect, Robert Ehrlich, Jr., (R) has said that he will lift the moratorium in 2003-JAN. 3
bulletDuring 2002:
bulletThe Philippine government declared a moratorium on executions.
bulletTurkey, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and Cyprus abolished the death penalty. 3

References:

  1. "Japan: The death penalty: Summary of Concerns," Amnesty International, at: http://www.web.amnesty.org/
  2. "Worth repeating: The year on America's death row," Toronto Star, Toronto, Canada, 2003-JAN-1, editorial page. Edited excerpt from an editorial in the Washington Post: "The Year in Death," 2002-DEC-30, Page A16, Section B.
  3. The Death Penalty in 2002: Year End Report," The Death Penalty Information Center, at: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/yrendrpt02.pdf This is a PDF file. If you need software to read these files, it can be obtained free from:

Navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Death Penalty > this essay

Copyright © 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-JAN-1
Latest update: 2003-JAN-1
Author: B.A. Robinson

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