29 States with the Death Penalty: Everything You Need to Know

There are 29 states with the death penalty in the United States. Here's how the states execute death row inmates and the history of how they came to be where they are today. Capital punishment or what is also known as the death penalty is authorized in 29 states within the United States. The death penalty is authorized by the United States Military and the federal government.

However, in the last 10 or so years, there have been a few states including the following that have abolished the death penalty. These states are:

  • In 2009, New Mexico
  • In 2011, Illinois
  • In 2012, Connecticut
  • In 2013, Maryland
  • In 2019, New Hampshire

These above states abolished the death penalty, however, they replaced it with life in prison sentence with no change for parole instead.

Back in 2015, the state of Nebraska also abolished the death penalty. It was not until the following year in 2016 when the Nebraska legislature reinstated the death penalty.

Not to mention courts in Delaware and Washington state ended up ruling that these states’ capital punishment laws were not constitutional. Many states in the United States debate the capital punishments reliability, fairness, along with the cost of implementation.

Capital punishment acts have been around since the start of the American colonies. The United States is the only Western nation that used the death penalty often. Out of the 54 countries in the world, the United States uses the death penalty. The United States was the first country to use lethal injection as one of the many methods of execution. Since then, the lethal injection method has been used in at least 5 other countries.

The Philippines no longer stands for executions, but Guatemala does only for civil offenses. However, Vietnam, Thailand, China, and the United States are still very much for the death penalty.

Did you know that in the United States between the years of 1967 to 1977, there were no executions? This was due to the case of Furman v. Georgia. This case was in 1972 and helped bring all the death sentences that were pending too just life prison.

It was not until 1976 when many of the states ended up passing new death penalty statutes. The courts confirmed the legality of capital punishment in the case of Gregg v. Georgia. Since 1976, over 7,800 inmates have received the sentence of death. Out of the 7,800 inmates over 1,400 of them have been executed. Nearly 165 inmates who were sentenced to death were exonerated prior to their execution.

As of mid-2018, there are over, 2,700 inmates waiting to be executed.

What are the Methods of Execution in States with the Death Penalty?

In the 29 states that currently allow the death penalty, lethal injection is currently the primary method when it comes to the execution process. In 1982, the state of Texas was the first state ever to use lethal injection as a method for execution.

Back in 2008, during the case of Baze v. Reese, this was when the United States Supreme Court approved the three-drug combination. The three drugs used in this cocktail is sodium thiopental, this drug is a sedative. Pancuronium bromide, this drug is a muscle relaxer, which will cause paralysis and stop ones breathing. The last drug is potassium chloride, which ultimately will cause one to go into cardiac arrest.

This three-drug combination was used when the state of Texas used lethal injection as their method of execution. At the time of Baze v. Reese, only 30 states were using this three-drug combination mixture. However, the court also made it into a debate about a similar drug combination that would be more legally acceptable rather than this three-drug combination.

Since the Baze v. Reese case, it has been hard for the states who handle the executions to get their hands on these lethal injection drugs. This was due to the production and manufacturer refusing to produce and sell these drugs for the sole purpose of executing death row inmates. This has caused many states to start using new drugs or going to compounding pharmacies to help do the executions.

However, 16 states in the United States adopted a second method when it came to execution. This second method is also authorized by the statute. Laws in the following states gave them a second method if the lethal injection was not available or unconstitutional. These states are the following:

  • Wyoming
  • Utah
  • Tennessee
  • South Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • New Hampshire
  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama

However, death row inmates in the following states will have a choice of a second method, if they were sentenced prior to the introduction of the death by lethal injection. These states are as follows:

  • Utah
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • Arizona

But in the following states, they also have another method that is available to death row inmates, if they choose to not want the lethal injection. Many of these alternatives are lethal gas, hanging, electrocution, firing squad, and nitrogen hypoxia. These states that offer these alternative methods are the following:

  • Washington
  • Virginia
  • South Carolina
  • Missouri
  • Florida
  • California
  • Alabama

How Many States Have the Death Penalty?

As previously mentioned only 29 states currently have the death penalty legalized. We are going to go through the history of each state and if they have the death penalty legal or if they don’t.

Alabama

Alabama legalized the death penalty back in 1976. Well, to be honest, Alabama reinstated the death penalty back in 1976. However, the state of Alabama is the only state in the United States that will permit the death sentence to be based on a non-unanimous jury outcome.

Alaska

Alaska has made it illegal for the death penalty to be here in 1957. The last execution that was taken place in the state of Alaska was back in 1950. This happened in Juneau.

Arizona

Arizona legalized the death penalty back in 1973. The state of Arizona once abolished the death penalty back in 1916. But, in two short years, the state of Arizona reinstated the death penalty in 1918. It was also reinstated after the Furman case in 1973.

Arkansas

Arkansas made the death penalty legal back in 1973. In his final tasks of Governor of Arkansas, Winthrop Rockefeller granted clemency to every death-row inmate in the year of 1970.

However, in 1973 the governor of the state of Arkansas reinstated capital punishment. Again, in June of 2012, the Arkansas Supreme Court then ruled how the death penalty law was not valid until Arkansas specifies the quantity and type of drug they will use for their lethal injections.

It was not until 2017 when the death penalty was again reinstated and the state of Arkansas was planning on executing nearly 8 death row inmates within an 11-day period, which is a record pace. However, the state of Arkansas only executed four men within a two-day period, while the rest of the inmates received stays.

California

California made the death penalty legal back in 1977. It was in the California Supreme Court case known as People v. Anderson. This case for a short time ended the death penalty in 1972, but it was later reinstated in the same year thanks to the voter approval of Proposition 17.

Again in 1976, the Supreme Court of California debated that the capital punishment statute was unconstitutional. However, in 1977, the statute was revised and later reinstated once again.

In March of 2019, the governor of the state of California, Gavin Newsom authorized a moratorium when it came to the death penalty. This was in effect for the duration of his time in the office. This moratorium reprieved all 737 inmates that were on death row. This also closed the San Quentin prison execution chamber. It also stopped the state of California from looking into a constitutional lethal injection option.

Colorado

Colorado made the death penalty legal in 1975. The death penalty was first abolished back in 1897 but then reinstated in 1901 by Colorado’s Legislature.

However, the state of Colorado was the very last state to hold an execution before the Furman case. The death penalty was then again reinstated after the Furman case in 1975.

The governor John Hickenlooper granted a reprieve for a single inmate on death row, Nathan Dunlop. This was in a 2013 executive order. Again, in late 2018, Hickenlooper pardoned another 135 people and gave six people clemency. Many critics call this moratorium.

Connecticut

Connecticut made the death penalty illegal in 2012.

However, after the Furman case in 1976, the state of Connecticut reinstated the death penalty, but then was later abolished by the state’s Governor Malloy and the state’s legislature in 2012. However, this appeal in 2012 was not retroactive, and the inmates on death row could still be executed. But, in 2015, Connecticut’s Supreme Court finally made a ruling that the death penalty was unconstitutional, and they banned any executions from happening in the state.

Delaware

Delaware made the death penalty illegal in 2016.

The death penalty was abolished back in 1958. It was then reinstated back in 1961. It was also then reinstated again after the Furman case in 1974.

It was not until August 2016, when the Delaware Supreme Court ruled in the case of Rauf v. State of Delaware that the death penalty statute violated the sixth amendment in the Constitution because it gave the judges way too much room when sentencing.

Then in December of 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court officially ruled that their decision back in August was going to retroactively apply to the 12 inmates who were on the death row in the state of Delaware.

District of Columbia

The death penalty in the District of Columbia has abolished thanks to the DC Council back in 1981.

Florida

Does Florida have the death penalty? Florida makes the death penalty legal back in 1973. The death penalty was reinstated back after the Furman case in 1972.

However, on January 2015, the United States Supreme Court officially ruled that the state of Florida’s way of sentencing inmates to death, which exclusively allowed judges rather than jurors, violated the 6th Amendment in the United States Constitution.

In March of 2017, the state of Florida Governor Rick Scott passed a bill that would require a unanimous vote for the death penalty by the juror for the judge to allow it in sentencing.

Georgia

Georgia made the death penalty legal back in 1973. The death penalty was again reinstated in the state of Georgia after the Furman case in 1973. However, in 2011, the state of Georgia death penalty started receiving international attention after the execution of Troy Davis.

Hawaii

Hawaii abolished the death penalty even before they became a part of the United States in 1957.

Idaho

Idaho reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1973.

Illinois

Illinois was another state that reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1974. It was the Illinois Governor Ryan that put in place a moratorium on executions back in early 2000. Then in 2011, Governor Quinn signed a bill that would abolish the death penalty.

Indiana

Indiana reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1973.

Iowa

Iowa’s Governor Carpenter abolished the capital punishment back in 1872. It was not until 1878 when the Governor Gear and the Iowa Legislature reinstated the death penalty. Then in 1965, Governor Hughes abolished the death penalty once again.

Kansas

Kansas abolished the death penalty in 1872 and 1907. However, the state of Kansas then reinstated the death penalty in 1935 and again in 1994 after the Furman case.

Kentucky

Kentucky reinstated the death penalty back in 1975 after the Furman case.

Louisiana

Louisiana reinstated the death penalty back in 1973 after the Furman case. In 2014, due to a lawsuit over the state of Louisiana lethal injection method, there was a temporary stay that was placed on the capital punishment. In 2018, the state of Louisiana was granted an additional 12-month extension on the stay of capital punishment.

Maine

The state of Maine abolished the death penalty back in 1876, but then reinstated it back in 1883. It was then abolished once again in 1887.

Maryland

The state of Maryland abolished the death penalty back in 2013.

Massachusetts

In the state of Massachusetts, the death penalty was reinstated back in 1982 by the voters, but then in 1984 was abolished as it was ruled unconstitutional with the case of Commonwealth v. Colon-Cruz.

Michigan

The state of Michigan abolished the death penalty in 1846.

Minnesota

The state of Minnesota abolished the death penalty in 1911.

Mississippi

The state of Mississippi reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1974.

Missouri

The state of Missouri reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1975.

Montana

The state of Montana reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1974.

Nebraska

The state of Nebraska voters reinstated the death penalty back in 2016 after the Nebraska Legislature axed the capital punishment back in 2015.

Nevada

The state of Nevada reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1973.

New Hampshire

The state of New Hampshire reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1991.

New Jersey

The state of New Jersey reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1982, but then in 2007, Governor Corzine abolished the death penalty for good.

New Mexico

The state of New Mexico reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1976, but then in 2009, Governor Richardson abolished the death penalty for good.

New York

The state of New York reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1995. However, in 2007, the case People v.   found that the death penalty was unconstitutional, and Governor Paterson signed an executive order in 2008 to abolish it.

North Carolina

The state of North Carolina reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1977.

North Dakota

The state of North Dakota abolished the death penalty back in 1915 except for crimes that included murder and treason that was for inmates who were already convicted. However, in 1973, the state of North Dakota banned the death penalty for all crimes.

Ohio

The state of Ohio reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1974.

Oklahoma

The state of Oklahoma reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1984.

Oregon

The state of Oregon reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1984.

Pennsylvania

The state of Pennsylvania reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1978.

Rhode Island

The state of Rhode Island abolished the death penalty in 1852, but then reinstated it in 1873. Then again in 1984, the state of Rhode Island abolished the death penalty once again.

South Carolina

The state of South Carolina reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1974.

South Dakota

The state of South Dakota abolished the death penalty in 1915 to only reinstate it again in 1918 and 1979.

Tennessee

The state of Tennessee abolished the death penalty in 1915 only to reinstate it again in 1939 and 1974.

Texas

The state of Texas reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1974.

Utah

The state of Utah reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1973.

Virginia

The state of Virginia reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1975.

Washington

The state of Washington abolished the death penalty in 1913 but then reinstated in 1919 and 1975. Only to abolish it for a final time in 2018.

Wisconsin

The state of Wisconsin abolished the death penalty back in 1853.

Wyoming

The state of Wyoming reinstated the death penalty after the Furman case in 1977.

What is the Death Penalty Information Center?

The Death Penalty Information Center is based out of Washington, D.C. It is a non-profit organization. This organization is all about the death penalty statistics and answering questions such as does have the death penalty and countries with the death penalty.

The Death Penalty Information Center was founded back in 1990. Its primary focus was on the application when it came to the death penalty within the United States.

However, the Death Penalty Information Center does not take a stand for or against the death penalty.

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