Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, United States Government, United States Military
Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, District of Columbia
A May 2006 Gallup Poll revealed that overall support for the death penalty was 65% (in 1994 it was 80%). Results of the choice between life without parole or the death penalty are shown to the right.
The death penalty statutes vary depending on the state, but all involve murder. Other crimes punishable are: Second conviction for rape of a child under 14(Texas, Oklahoma) Repeat offenders of criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 11 (South Carolina) Second conviction for sexual intercourse without consent accompanied by serious bodily injury (Montana) Aggravated rape of a child under 13 (Louisiana) Sexual battery or attempted sexual battery with injury of a child under 12 (Florida) Carnal knowledge of a female who is less than 10 presumes force (Georgia)
Treason (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Washington) Aggravated kidnapping (Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Montana) Drug trafficking (Florida, Missouri) Aircraft hijacking (Georgia, Montana) Placing a bomb near a bus terminal (Montana) Espionage (New Mexico) Aggravated assault by incarcerated, persistent felons, or murderers (Montana)
The first established death penalty laws were in the 18 th Century B.C. in the Code of King Hammaurabi of Babylon. The code qualified the death penalty as punishment for 25 different crimes. In the 11 th Century A.D. William the Conqueror prohibited the execution for any crime other than murder. English settlers brought the death penalty from Britain with them when they came to America. First recorded execution in the colonies was of Captain George Kendall in 1608 for being a spy for Spain.
Opposition to the death penalty first started in 1767 with the essay On Crimes and Punishment by Cesare Beccaria. He theorized that there was no justification for execution. In the early 1800s states began to reduce the number of capital crimes and build state penitentiaries. In 1834, Pennsylvania became the first state to move executions from the public into correctional facilities. Some states began to abolish the death penalty In the 1950s support and use of the death penalty dropped dramatically.
Before the 1960s the 5 th, 8 th, and 14 th Amendment was interpreted as allowing the death penalty. In the 1960s the legality of the death penalty was questioned. In Witherspoon v. Illinois (1968) the Supreme Court ruled that potential jurors could not be dismissed solely because of opposition to the death penalty. In Furman v. Georgia (1972) Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty statute violated the 8 th Amendment. On June 29, 1972, the Supreme Court voided 40 death penalty statutes and suspended the death penalty. In Gregg v. Georgia (1976) the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty and ruled that the death penalty was constitutional under the 8 th Amendment.
Lethal injection 932 people since 1976 Electrocution 154 people since 1976 Gas Chamber 11 people since 1976 Hanging 3 people since 1976 Firing Squad 2 people since 1976
Oklahoma was first state to adopt lethal injection in 1977. First person to be executed by lethal injection was Charles Brooks in Texas on December 2, 1982.
Person is bound to gurney and heart monitors are position on skin. Two needles (one is back-up) are inserted into veins in the arm. Long tubes are connected to several intravenous drips. First drip is a saline solution that is harmless. The inmate is then injected with sodium thiopental (an anesthetic) to put the inmate to sleep. Pavulon or pancuronium bromide is injected to paralyze the muscle system and to stop the inmate’s breathing. Potassium chloride is finally injected to stop the heart. Death is caused from anesthetic overdose, respiratory arrest and cardiac arrest while the person is unconscious.
Medical ethics do not allow doctors to participate in executions. Doctors can only certify if the inmate is dead or not. Inexperienced technicians and orderlies perform the injections. If the drugs are injected into a muscle or if the needle becomes clogged, the inmate will experience extreme pain.
New York built the first electric chair in 1888 as a more humane method of execution than hanging. First person to be executed by electric chair was William Kemmler in 1890. The electric chair in the sole method of execution in Nebraska.
Person is shaved and strapped to chair with belts that cross the chest, groin, legs and arms. A metal skullcap-shaped electrode is attached to the scalp and forehead over a sponge moistened with saline. If sponge is too wet it will short-circuit the electric current. If sponge is too dry the electric current will have a very high resistance. An electrode moistened with conduction jelly is attached to the leg. The prisoner is then blindfolded. A Handel that connects to power supply is pulled and a jolt between 500 and 2000 volts (about 30 seconds) is given. Doctors wait for body to cool down and check to see if the inmate’s heart is still beating. If it is, another jolt is applied. This process continues until the prisoner is dead.
Extremely painful and brutal way to die: Prisoner’s hands often grip the chair and violent movement can sometimes cause dislocations and fractures. The tissues swell and bowels empty. Steam and smoke rise from prisoner with the smell of burning. Eyeballs sometimes pop out and rest on the cheeks. Prisoner often urinates, vomits blood and drools. Body turns bright red and the skin stretches to the point of breaking. Prisoner sometimes catches fire. After death, body is hot enough to blister if touched. Third degree burns occur where the electrodes met the skin. In most cases, the brain appears cooked at autopsy.
Nevada first used cyanide gas in 1924 as a more humane way of execution. First person to be executed by lethal gas was Gee Jon. Cyanide gas was pumped into his cell while he slept, but gas leaked from his cell. Gas chamber was built as a result.
Inmate is strapped to a chair in an airtight chamber. Below chair is a pail of sulfuric acid. Long stethoscope is attached to inmate so doctor outside chamber can pronounce death. Room is sealed and a lever is pressed. Lever releases hydrogen cyanide gas into chamber. Inmate is instructed to breathe in deeply to speed up process. Inmate does not lose consciousness immediately. Inmate’s eyes pop, the skin turns purple and the inmate begins to drool. Inmate dies from hypoxia (cutting off of oxygen to the brain) Once person is dead, an exhaust fan sucks the poison air out of the chamber and the corpse is sprayed with ammonia to neutralize any cyanide left over.
Federal court in California found method to be a cruel and unusual punishment. Inmate does not lose consciousness immediately. Inmate exhibits signs of extreme horror, pain and strangling. Doctors say the people are unquestionably experience pain and extreme anxiety.
Hanging was primary method of execution until the 1890s. Delaware and Washington still use hanging.
Day before execution the inmate is weighed and a rehearsal is done using a sandbag with same weight. The rehearsal helps determine the length of “drop” needed for a quick death. The rope is boiled and stretched to eliminate spring or coiling. The knot is lubricated with wax or soap so it can slide smoothly. Inmate’s hands and legs secured Inmate is blindfolded. The noose is placed around neck with knot behind ear. Trap-door is opened and inmate falls through. Inmate’s weight should cause a rapid fracture/dislocation of the neck.
Instantaneous death rarely occurs. If rope is too long, inmate could be decapitated. Death can result from slow asphyxiation if: Inmate has strong neck muscles Has a light weight Noose is positioned wrong Fracture/dislocation is not rapid If rope is too short, strangulation could take up to 45 minutes. If slow asphyxiation occurs: The face becomes engorged The tongue sticks out The eyes pop The bowels empty Violent movements of the limbs occur
Firing squad is still a method of execution in Idaho. Last person to be executed by firing squad was John Albert Taylor in Utah on January 26, 1996. The chair above was used in this execution.
Inmate is bound to chair with leather straps across waist and head. Chair is surrounded with sandbags to absorb blood. Black hood is put over the inmate’s head. Doctor locates heart and pins a white cloth target over it. Standing 20 feet away, five shooters armed with 0.30 caliber rifles shoot at the inmate. One of the rifles contains a blank round. Inmate dies from loss of blood.
Not all inmates lose consciousness immediately. If shooters accidentally miss heart, the inmate bleeds to death slowly. Shooters sometimes intentionally miss heart so the inmate suffers. One of the shooters is given blank rounds. Shooters can feel that they were not responsible.
Actual executions of women are rare. First execution of a woman was in 1632. There are only 568 documented executions of women, making up 2.8% of total executions since 1608. As of December 31, 2007, there were 51 women on death row. This constitutes 1.5% of the total death row population In the past 100 years, over 40 women have been executed, including 11 since 1976. 9 by lethal injection 2 by electrocution
Mental health experts state that mentally retarded people have the characteristic of wanting to please which leads them to confess (sometimes falsely) to capital crimes. On June 20, 2002 in Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled that it is a violation of the 8 th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to execute inmates with mental retardation. Since then, a national consensus has been made on the issue, which supports the 2002 ruling.
Mental illness is classified as “Any of the various conditions characterized by impairment of an individual’s normal cognitive, emotional or behavioral functioning.” The most common mental illnesses found in prisons are: bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and suicide Research by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 1 in 6 prisoners has a history of a mental illness Resolutions have been made that call for the exemption for the mentally ill by: American Psychiatric Association American Psychological Association National Alliance for the Mentally Ill American Bar Association
First execution of a juvenile was in 1642. Since 1642, approximately 365 people have been executed for juvenile crimes, which makes up 1.8% of all executions. Since the 1976, 22 juvenile offenders have been executed, which is about 2% of all executions. In March 2005, in Roper v. Simmons the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for those who committed crimes under the age of 18 was a cruel and unusual punishment and was barred by the Constitution.
Religious activists work to abolish the death penalty Religions that support death penalty: The Christian Coalition Fundamentalist churches Pentecostal churches Religions that oppose death penalty: Roman Catholic Church Most Protestant denominations: Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and the United Church of Christ Religions that are indifferent: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In 96% of states reviewed for the death penalty there was a pattern of race-of victim or race-of- defendant discrimination, or both.
A study conducted in North Carolina found that the odds of receiving the death penalty rose by 3.5 times if the victim was white. A study in California found that people who killed whites were 3 times more likely to get the death penalty than those who killed blacks and 4 times more likely than those who killed Latinos.
In the death penalty states, 98% of the chief district attorneys are white and only 1% are black. In McCleskey v. Kemp (1987) the Supreme Court ruled that racial disparities would not be recognized as a constitutional violation of “equal protection under law” unless intentional racial discrimination against the defendant could be shown.
The Native American crime victimization rate is double the rate of non-Indians. The incarceration rate of Native Americans is 19% higher than the national rate. Native Americans typically receive longer sentences than non-Indians and tend to serve longer time in prison. They are also subject to abuse from other inmate because of cultural reasons. In 2006, Native Americans made up 1.1% of total death row population. Since 1961, 15 American Indians have been executed. Between 1979-1999 whites were responsible for 32% of the Native Americans killed, while Indians were responsible for only 1% of whites killed.
The method of execution for Native Americans is typically more brutal than the method of whites, which is usually lethal injection:
Studies found that the murder rates in death penalty states are consistently higher than in non- death penalty states: Murder Rates in Death Penalty and Non-Death Penalty States
Law enforcement officers place the death penalty last in deterring violent crime. Criminologists do not think that the death penalty acts as a deterrence to murder.
36 states allow death penalty 14 states prohibit death penalty Methods of execution are painful to the inmates Question of whether it is a “cruel and unusual punishment.” The mentally retarded and juveniles are exempt from death penalty. Women are less likely to receive death penalty Racial discrimination occurs Death penalty does not act as a deterrence