Crimes in the USA That are Punishable by the Death Penalty

The death penalty also known as capital punishment has always been a controversial topic. Many people feel that it is morally wrong, influenced by racial bias and that keeping the prisoners for years on Death Row has adverse effects on mental and physical health. In this article, you will learn about the legality of Capital punishment in the states of the USA.


Death Penalty in the USA

The death penalty also known as Capital punishment is a practice authorized by the government in which a person is ordered death sentence as a punishment for capital crimes or capital offenses such as murder, rape, war crimes, sedition, genocide, drug trafficking, terrorism, treason espionage, and other serious offenses. A prisoner awaiting execution of a death sentence is referred to as condemned and is sent to death row( a part of a prison where inmates awaiting execution are housed). In several cases, a convict may sit on death row for many years due to the habeas corpus and appeals processes.


Ban on Death penalty/capital Punishment in the year 1972

The USA Supreme court struck down Death penalty/Capital punishment statutes in Furman v. Georgia, 408 u/s 238(1972), as cruel punishment violating the eight amendment of constitutional law and disproportionate and discriminating against poor and minorities.  All other pending death sentences at that time were reduced to life imprisonment.

Reinstatement of Death penalty/ Capital punishment in 1976

  • In 1976, Gregg v. Georgia, 428 u/s 153, the court held that capital punishment is not unconstitutional as it serves retribution and deterrence. It upheld Georgia’s new capital punishment procedures.

In 1977, Coker v. Georgia u/s 584, the supreme court of USA held that a penalty/punishment must be proportional to the crime, otherwise it violates the eighth amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. The following factors are considered  by the court before deciding the punishment:

  1. 1. The gravity of an offense and the stringency of the punishment.
  • 2. How other criminals are punished by the jurisdiction
  • 3.How the same crime is punished by other jurisdictions.

In   2008,  Kennedy v. Louisiana,  554 u/s 407 the USA Supreme court extended its ruling in Coker v. Georgia and held that the death penalty is disproportionate in the case of child rape if the victim lives as only six states of the U.S. allow execution for child rape.

Principle of individualized sentencing jurisprudence

In 2002, Ring V. Arizona 536 u/s 584, the Supreme court of the USA held that it is unconstitutional for a judge to sentence without a sitting jury, to find an aggravating factor/circumstance necessary to impose the death penalty. The judge must conduct the individualized sentencing process.

In 2006, Brown V. Sanders 546 u/s 212, if appellate court rules a sentencing factor/circumstance to be invalid in a case, it becomes unconstitutional unless the court finds some other aggravating factor/circumstance.

In 2006, Kansas v. Marsh, 548 U.S. 163  the states may impose the death penalty /capital punishment when the court finds any aggravating factors to be weighed equally, without violating the principle of individualized sentencing.

 In 2002, Atkins v. Virginia, 536 u/s 304 (2002), the Supreme Court ruled that the execution of mentally retarded criminals violates the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and severe as mental disabilities they reduce the seriousness of the crime.

In 2009, Bobby v. Bies, 556 u/s 825, the Court held that states may reconsider the mental health of a death row inmate who is labeled mentally retarded before the Court.

In 2005,  Roper v. Simmons, 543 u/s 551 the Supreme Court invalidated capital punishment for all juvenile offenders with a  majority opinion that teenagers lack maturity and responsibility, vulnerable to negative influences, and incomplete development of character.

In 2014, Hall v. Florida, the Supreme Court held that a brightline  IQ threshold may not decide whether someone is mentally retarded/intellectually disabled for being eligible for the death penalty.

How many states in the USA have the death penalty?

At present, the death penalty is legal in 29 states of the USA. Capital punishment can be imposed by the states, federal government, and the military by their own laws. Though California and Pennsylvania states have the death penalty legal on the books but the governors have declared a moratorium on its use. The Supreme court of the USA ruled that Capital punishment does not violate the Eighth Amendment ( ban on cruel and unusual punishment), but it does not provide procedural aspects on the use of the death penalty by the court. The court must consider the evolving standard of decency for determining if the punishment is cruel or unusual.

Which states in the USA have a death penalty?

Those who are found guilty in the states with Capital punishment, they face waiting for an average of 14 years and 8 months between sentencing and execution. The states in which the death penalty is legal are as follows:

  • 1. Alabama
  • 2. Arizona
  • 3. Arkansas
  • 4. Colorado
  • 5. Florida
  • 6. Georgia
  • 7. Idaho
  • 8. Indiana
  • 9. Kansas
  • 10. Kentucky
  • 11. Louisiana
  • 12. Mississippi
  • 13. Missouri
  • 14. Montana
  • 15. Nebraska
  • 16. Nevada
  • 17. New Hampshire
  • 18. North Carolina
  • 19. Ohio
  • 20. Oklahoma
  • 21. Oregon
  • 22. South Carolina
  • 23. South Dakota
  • 24. Tennessee
  • 25. Texas
  • 26. Utah
  • 27. Virginia
  • 28. Washington
  • 29. Wyoming

Which States have abolished the death penalty in the USA?

The first state to abolish the Death penalty was Wisconsin in the year 1853. Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, and New Hampshire have all abolished capital punishment recently replacing it with a life imprisonment sentence. Washington and  Delaware ruled it as unconstitutional. In the USA, 21 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have abolished Capital Punishment for all offenses. The 21 states in which Capital punishment is abolished are as follows:

  • 1. Alaska
  • 2. Connecticut
  • 3. Delaware
  • 4. District of Columbia
  • 5. Hawaii
  • 6. Illinois
  • 7. Iowa
  • 8. Maine
  • 9. Maryland
  • 10. Massachusetts
  • 11. Michigan
  • 12. Minnesota
  • 13. New Hampshire
  • 14. New Jersey
  • 15. New Mexico
  • 16. New York
  • 17. North Dakota
  • 18. Rhode island
  • 19. Puerto Rico
  • 20. Vermont
  • 21. Washington
  • 22. West Virginia
  • 23. Wisconsin

Michigan was the first territory in the world to abolish capital punishment in the year 1847 and the 1962 Constitutional Convention codified the complete abolition of the Death penalty in Michigan.  But, the  crime of treason was  punishable by the death penalty despite the 1847 abolition in Michigan, no  person was ever executed under the said law

What are the Methods of Execution in the USA?

In all the 29 states that have the Death penalty, lethal injection is the primary method for executing Death penalty/capital punishment. It was first used in Texas in the year 1982.  However, secondary methods of execution such as electrocution, lethal gas, nitrogen hypoxia, and firing squad are authorized by statute in sixteen states of the USA.


Recent State Enactments

Since 2015, 25 states of the USA enacted 59 new laws addressing state systems of capital punishment which include expanding or limiting aggravating factors, modifying the methods and procedure of execution, changing the procedure for trial and appellate, modifying laws to comply with litigation outcomes and repealing the practice altogether.

Does Florida have the death penalty?

In Florida, the death penalty is legal. The first execution was in 1827. After the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, Florida has executed 99 convicted murderers, including the serial killer Ted Bundy on January 24, 1989. Governor Rick Scott signed the Timely Justice Act of 2013, on June 14, 2013 which speeds up the capital punishment process by creating time frames to make appeals and imposes reporting requirements on the progress of a case. There are 340 offenders on death row waiting for execution as of September 10, 2019.

Does California have the death penalty?

Capital punishment is a legal California. California carried out 709 executions between 1778 and 1972. The California Supreme Court struck down state death penalty statute in  People vs Anderson, in 1972 which was months later reinstated by voters months.  In California, the last death penalty execution was in 2006.

Does Texas have the death penalty?

In Texas, the death penalty is legal. It was the first jurisdiction in the world to carry out an execution by lethal injection in 1964.  Texas has executed 565 offenders from 1976 to September 25, 2019  making it the highest number of executions.

USA Death Penalty statistics

The total number of death penalty executions in the USA as of March 5, 2020, is 1517. The last person who was executed by lethal injection was Nathaniel Woods. He was 1517th person to have been executed since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court Of USA.

List of offenders executed in the United States in 2019

The number of death penalty executions in  the USA  in 2019 was 22.

Sno Date of Execution Name of the Offender State Method of Execution
1 January 30, 2019 Robert Mitchell Jennings Texas Lethal injection
2 February 7, 2019 Dominique Hakim Marcelle Ray Alabama Lethal injection
3 February 28, 2019 Billie Wayne Coble Texas Lethal injection
4 April 24, 2019 John William King Texas Lethal injection
5 May 2, 2019 Scotty Garnell Morrow Georgia Lethal injection
6 May 16, 2019 Michael Brandon Samra Alabama Lethal injection
7 May 16, 2019 Donnie Edward Johnson Tennessee Lethal injection
8 May 23, 2019 Robert Joseph "Bobby Joe" Long Florida Lethal injection
9 May 30, 2019 Christopher Lee Price Alabama Lethal injection
10 June 20, 2019 Marion Wilson, Jr. Georgia Lethal injection
11 August 15, 2019 Stephen Michael West Tennessee Electrocution
12 August 21, 2019 Larry Ray Swearingen Texas Lethal injection
13 August 22, 2019 Gary Ray Bowles Florida Lethal injection
14 September 4, 2019 Billy Jack Crutsinger Texas Lethal injection
15 September 10, 2019 Mark Anthony Soliz Texas Lethal injection
16 September 25, 2019 Robert Sparks Texas Lethal injection
17 October 1, 2019 Russell Earl Bucklew Missouri Lethal injection
18 November 4, 2019 Charles Russell Rhines South Dakota Lethal injection
19 November 6, 2019 Justen Grant Hall Texas Lethal injection
20 November 13, 2019 Ray Jefferson Cromartie Georgia Lethal injection
21 December 5, 2019 Leroy Hall Jr. Tennessee Electrocution
22 December 11, 2019 Travis Trevino Runnels Texas Lethal injection

List of offenders executed in the United States in 2020

 The number of death penalty executions in  the USA  as of March 5,2020 is 5.

Sno Date Name State Method of Execution
1 January 15, 2020 John Steven Gardner Texas Lethal injection
2 January 29, 2020 Donnie Cleveland Lance Georgia Lethal injection
3 February 6, 2020 Abel Revill Ochoa Texas Lethal injection
4 February 20, 2020 Nicholas Todd Sutton Tennessee Electrocution
5 March 5, 2020 Nathaniel Woods Alabama Lethal injection

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