Last updated on: 9/1/2021 | Author:

Did You Know?

1.As of Sep. 1, 2021, 24 states allow the death penalty. [1]
2.As of Aug. 26, 2021, 29 states have not executed anyone in the past 10 years, despite 7 having legal death penalties (excluding 3 states with legal penalties but moratoriums) and despite those 29 states housing 1,152 death row inmates collectively. [13]
3.692 people were executed in the US from Jan. 1, 2003 to Dec. 31, 2019. [3]
4.As of Aug. 26, 2021, of the 27 states with a legal death penalty, 21 states executed one or more inmates in the last 10 years (including three states that have since banned the death penalty: Delaware, Virginia, and Washington) and 13 states in the past five years (including one state that has since banned the penalty: Virginia). [13]
5.On Jan. 4, 1903, Thomas Edison electrocuted Topsy the Elephant with 6,000 volts of electricity in front of 1,500 spectators at Luna Park Zoo on Coney Island. Edison filmed the execution to demonstrate the dangers of alternating current (AC), which threatened the profitability of his direct current (DC) method of electricity distribution. [5]
6.Only seven states authorize the use of the gas chamber (lethal gas) as a backup method of execution, as of Aug. 25, 2021. Four states authorize hanging and eight electrocution as backup methods. The primary method of execution in all legal states is lethal injection. [6]
7.Virginia executed more people between 1608-2002 than any other state, with 1,361 total executions. New York was second (1,130), followed by Pennsylvania (1,043), Texas (1,031), and Georgia (1,031). [7]
8.The last US execution by firing squad took place on June 18, 2010 in Utah. Convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner was the third person in 33 years to be executed by firing squad, with all three executions taking place in Utah (as of July 8, 2010). Gardner was able to choose the firing squad because he was grandfathered in after Utah outlawed firing squads on May 3, 2004. [8]
9.The top five US executions by crime between 1608 and 2002 were murder (81.8%), rape (6.7%), enslaved persons revolt (1.9%), house break-in burglary (1.7%), and robbery (1.1%). [7]
10.The first recorded execution in the American colonies occurred in 1608 when Captain George Kendall of the Jamestown colony was executed by firing squad for the crime of mutiny. [9]
11.The first US state to outlaw the death penalty for all crimes, including treason, was Rhode Island, in 1852. Wisconsin was the second state to do so in 1853. [10]
12.The American Medical Association passed a resolution in June of 1980 saying physicians should not participate in executions. [11]
13.The US Supreme Court ruled the execution of people with intellectual disabilities unconstitutional in a 6-3 to vote in Atkins v. Virginia on June 20, 2002. [12]
14.As of May 19, 2021, 55 countries have a legal death penalty, 28 countries death penalty illegal in practice, 8 countries use the death penalty for exceptional crimes only, and 108 countries have made the death penalty illegal. [4]
15.There are 42 federal capital crimes in the United States, as of Sep. 1, 2021, including genocide, espionage, and treason. [2]

Sources:, "States with the Death Penalty, Death Penalty Bans, and Death Penalty Moratoriums,", Mar. 24, 2021, "Federal Capital Offenses,", Aug. 19, 2021, "US Executions: 2003-2019", Aug. 25, 2021, "International Death Penalty Status,", May. 19, 2021
5.JoAnn Bren Guernsey, Death Penalty: Fair Solution or Moral Failure?, 2009, "International and American Methods of Execution,", Aug. 25, 2021, "The ESPY List: US Executions 1608-2002,", Aug. 19, 2021
8.Dan Fletcher, "Ronnie Lee Gardner Executed By Firing Squad,", June 18, 2010
9.Ron Fridell, Capital Punishment, 2003
10.Robert Bohm, "The Death Penalty in the United States," Battleground Criminal Justice, Vol. 1, Ed. Gregg Barak, 2007
11.British Medical Association, Medicine Betrayed: The Participation of Doctors in Human Rights Abuses, 1992
12.Atkins v. Virginia, US Supreme Court, 536 U.S. 304, June 20, 2002, "Most Recent Executions in Each US State,", Aug. 26, 2021