The botched execution of a condemned man in Oklahoma last week reignited America’s perennial debate over the death penalty and the ethics of capital punishment.
Among western democracies, the United States stands alone in its continued use of capital punishment. Since 1976, when the Supreme Court ended a brief moratorium, 1379 inmates have been executed at the hands of the state, and more than 3,000 remain on death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The death penalty is currently legal in 32 states — including California, where a 2012 voter initiative to ban it was narrowly defeated — as well as within the federal justice system.
But a series of factors, including botched executions, exonerations, evidence of racial discrimination in sentencing, excessive legal costs and dropping crime rates have all contributed to a growing uneasiness with capital punishment. Although a solid majority of Americans still believe that convicted murderers should be executed, support has waned considerably in the last few decades, according to recent polls. Of the 18 states (and the District of Columbia) that have abolished the death penalty, six have done so just within the last seven years, including, most recently, Maryland in 2013.
In the map below, death penalty states are in brown and states with bans in light blue. Mouse over each state for relevant data. (See article below map.)Related