A closer look at the federal death penalty – on the eve of what could be the 11th federal execution after a 17-yr pause.
Why It Matters
“The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”
Former Attorney General William Barr in 2019 announcing the resumption of federal executions after an informal 17-year moratorium; the federal gov't adopted a new lethal injection protocol after years of legal challenges. In recent years, bipartisan support has backed the elimination of the death penalty.
Death Penalty: Modern Era
- 1961: Last time U.S. military executed a military service member (several former soldiers remain on death row).
- 1976: States resumed carrying out the death penalty after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it, revising a 1972 ruling that it violates the 8th Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
- 2020: Federal government resumed carrying out the death penalty for the first time since 2003.
Arguments On Both Sides
FOR: Some proponents say justice demands the death penalty for particularly abhorrent crimes committed by criminals incapable of rehabilitation.
AGAINST: Others say the death penalty is inhumane, inconsistently applied (citing economic & racial disparities) and that it does not deter crime.
Death Penalty: Today
- Federal & U.S. military: Death penalty authorized
- 22+DC: States without the death penalty
- 28: States with death penalty – some of which have moratoriums in place preventing executions
Moratoriums matter: New Hampshire hadn’t executed anyone since 1939, and repealed the death penalty in 2019.
Death Penalty: Big Picture
The number of states utilizing the death penalty and the number of state-level executions have recently declined.
- 2020: 7 executions by 5 states and 10 by federal gov’t
- 2010: 46 executions by 12 states
- 2000: 85 executions by 14 states & 10 by federal gov’t (the second-highest since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976)
The federal government carried out ten executions during the last six months of 2020. Three more federal death row inmates are scheduled to be put to death before the end of Pres. Trump's term this month, including what will be the first federal execution of a woman on January 12, the first since 1953 (nearly 70 years ago).
News on federal executions from the Dept. of Justice: CLICK HERE
Fascinating read on the federal death sentence and women: READ HERE
Some information on the death penalty: CLICK HERE
A good review of how we got to this point: CLICK HERE
by Jenna Lee,