Although three US states placed a death- penalty-related question on the ballot in the 2016 election, the overall statistics show another record decline in the imposition of the death penalty.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center’s The Death Penalty in 2016: Year End Report, “the death sentences, executions, and public support for death penalty [are] at historical lows.”
Death sentences peaked in 1996, with 315 death sentences imposed, while in 2016, about 30 death sentences were projected to be imposed as punishment. Looking at the numbers since 1973 (the year when states began re-enacting death penalty statutes), the average decline over the last 10 years is significant, showing more than a 50% decline.
The report also offers interesting facts about individual state practices, for example:
Four states that are responsible for 90% of the executions in the U.S. in 2016—Georgia (9), Texas (7), Florida (1), and Missouri (1)—have also carried out more than 85% of the country’s 83 executions over the past three years (Texas (27), Missouri (17), Georgia (16), and Florida (11)). 80% of all executions in the U.S. in 2016 took place in either Georgia or Texas.
Lastly, the report documents changes in public support for the death penalty, with a steady decline in support of the death penalty in favor of life without parole.
- Death Penalty Information Center, The Death Penalty in 2016: Year End Report (2016).
- Liliana Segura, The Death Penalty Won Big on Election Day, but the Devil is in the Details, The Intercept (Nov. 11, 2016).
- 2016 Election Results: POTUS and State Ballot Measures on the Death Penalty, Marijuana, Gun Control, and More, Procon.org (Nov. 9, 2016).
- Bureau of Justice Statistics, Publications & Products: Capital Punishment (last updated with 2013 numbers).
- Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment.
- Death Penalty Information Center, Facts about the Death Penalty (Dec. 9, 2016).