Special Report

Where the Most People Have Been Executed in the United States

Richard Fairchild, who has been on death row for the last 26 years, was executed by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester on the morning of Nov. 17, 2022 – one day after an execution in Arizona and another in Texas. He was the 16th person executed in the United States so far this year. 

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, overturning a short-lived prohibition, over 1,550 defendants have ben executed in the United States. Though the federal government has had a standing moratorium on executions since mid-2021, in 27 states, capital punishment remains on the books. Even in states that now do not have the death penalty, executions were commonplace in the years leading up to the death penalty’s repeal. 

Using data from Death Row U.S.A. Spring 2022, a report by the Legal Defense Fund, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states that execute the most people. We also considered executions conducted by the federal government. States and the federal government are ranked by the total number of prisoners in their jurisdiction who have been executed since 1976, when capital punishment was reinstated. In cases of ties, we ordered by the date of last execution. 

Among the 35 jurisdictions on this list, the number of executions conducted since 1976 ranges from one to nearly 580. In each of the jurisdiction, the vast majority of prisoners who have been put to death, if not all, are men. (Here is a look at the most brutal female criminals in history.)

While some of the states on this list have repealed capital punishment, many of them still issued death sentences and executed convicted criminals up until the repeal. In some states where the death penalty still stands, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of prisoners waiting on death row. Due in part to a lengthy appeals process and a shortage of lethal injection drugs, inmates often spend years or decades on death row before sentencing is carried out. (Here is a look at the states with the most people on death row.) 

It is important to note that death sentences are typically reserved for those convicted only of the most heinous crimes. But should exculpatory evidence later emerge, there is no way to repeal a death sentence once it has been carried out. This, in addition to a belief that the death penalty is not applied in a racially neutral way, are among the most commonly cited arguments among opponents of capital punishment in the United States.

Click here to see where the most people have been executed in the United States.

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