Last updated on: 8/25/2021 | Author: ProCon.org

International and American Methods of Execution

According to Amnesty International, 18 countries carried out executions in 2020 and used five methods of execution: beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection, and shooting.

Within the United States, 17 executions were carried out via two methods: electrocution (one person) and lethal injection (16). Below, find the methods of execution used globally in 2021, as well as which methods of execution are legal in each of the US states and how often each was used between 1977 (when executions resumed after the US Supreme Court invalidated the death penalty nationally) and 2019.


2020 International Methods of Execution

Beheading

Saudi Arabia

Electrocution

United States

Hanging

Bangladesh, Botswana, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria

Lethal Injection

China, United States, Vietnam

Shooting

China, Iran, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Taiwan, Yeman


US States Legal Methods of Execution

The US federal government used lethal injection exclusively during the Trump administration, ending a 17-year moratorium on the federal death penalty. The Department of Justice issued a rule in Nov. 2020 allowing federal executions to be carried out “in any manner consistent with [f]ederal law,” including electrocution, lethal gas, and firing squad. Whether the Biden administration will carry out executions remains unclear.

For clarity, we have not included the states that do not have the death penalty.

 Lethal InjectionElectrocutionFiring SquadHangingLethal Gas
Alabamaprimary methodbackupnot authorizednot authorizedbackup
Alaskaprimary methodbackupnot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Arizonaprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizedbackup
California*primary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizedbackup
Floridaprimary methodbackupnot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Georgiaprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Idahoprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Indianaprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Kansasprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Kentuckyprimary methodbackupnot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Louisianaprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Missouriprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizedbackup
Mississippiprimary methodbackupbackupnot authorizedbackup
Montanaprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
North Carolinaprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Nebraskaprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
New Hampshire**primary methodnot authorizednot authorizedbackupnot authorized
Nevadaprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Ohioprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Oklahomaprimary methodbackupbackupnot authorizedbackup
Oregon*primary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Pennsylvania*primary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
South Carolinaprimary methodbackupbackupnot authorizednot authorized
South Dakotaprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Tennesseeprimary methodbackupnot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Texasprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizednot authorized
Utahprimary methodnot authorizedbackupnot authorizednot authorized
Wyomingprimary methodnot authorizednot authorizednot authorizedbackup

*California, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have governor-imposed statewide moratoriums on the death penalty, though the practice remains legal.

**Whether New Hampshire’s abolition of the death penalty applies retroactively is unclear. One person remains on death row.


Number of Executions by Methods of Execution: 1977-2019

 All MethodsLethal InjectionElectrocutionFiring SquadHangingLethal Gas
US Total1,5121,3331623311
Federal330000
Alabama664224000
Arizona37350002
Arkansas31301000
California13110002
Colorado110000
Connecticut110000
Delaware16150010
Florida995544000
Georgia755223000
Idaho330000
Illinois12120000
Indiana20173000
Kentucky321000
Louisiana28820000
Maryland550000
Mississippi21170004
Missouri89890000
Montana330000
Nebraska413000
Nevada12110001
New Mexico110000
North Carolina43410002
Ohio56560000
Oklahoma1121120000
Oregon220000
Pennsylvania330000
South Carolina43367000
South Dakota550000
Tennessee1275000
Texas5675670000
Utah740300
Virginia1138231000
Washington530020
Wyoming110000

Sources:

Amnesty International, “Death Sentences and Executions 2020,” amnesty.org, 2021

Congressional Research Service, “The Federal Death Penalty,” fas.org, Dec. 1, 2020

Tracy L. Snell, “Capital Punishment, 2019 – Statistical Tables,” bjs.ojp.gov, June 2021

Laurel Wamsley, “With Lethal Injections Harder to Come by, Some States Are Turning to Firing Squads,” npr.org, May 19, 2021