Special Report

Where the Most People Have Been Executed in the United States

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30. Pennsylvania
> Number of executions since 1976: 3 (0.2% all U.S. executions)
> Date of last execution: June 7, 1999
> Race of defendants: White: 3
> Other characteristics: Gave up appeal: 3

There have been three executions in Pennsylvania since 1976, the most recent of which was in 1999. Still, Pennsylvania has one of the largest death row populations in the country, with 128 inmates sentenced to death as of April 1, 2022.

Pennsylvania has a standing moratorium on carrying out death sentences, imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2015. In halting the death penalty, the governor cited concerns over the potential innocence of inmates and racial bias in prosecution and sentencing. Currently, a little over half of all death row inmates in Pennsylvania are Black, while Black Americans comprise just 12% of the state population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Despite the moratorium, courts in the state can still issue death sentences. Crimes that legally warrant a death sentence in Pennsylvania include the killing of a minor under age 12, killing a police officer, and killing a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy.

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29. Montana
> Number of executions since 1976: 3 (0.2% all U.S. executions)
> Date of last execution: Nov. 8, 2006
> Race of defendants: White: 3
> Other characteristics: Gave up appeal: 1

There have been three executions in Montana since 1976 – all of them men who were convicted of murder. They were executed by lethal injection from 1995 to 2006. Until 1995, executions in Montana were conducted exclusively by hanging.

There are currently two death row inmates in Montana. One was convicted of kidnapping and murdering two Native American men who picked him up while hitchhiking. The other was already serving a 130-year sentence for murder when he beat a fellow inmate to death with a baseball bat in 1990 and sentenced to death for that murder. Not long after, he and seven other inmates took over a section of the prison in a riot that resulted in the deaths of five protective custody inmates.

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28. Kentucky
> Number of executions since 1976: 3 (0.2% all U.S. executions)
> Date of last execution: Nov. 21, 2008
> Race of defendants: White: 3
> Other characteristics: Gave up appeal: 2

There have been three executions in Kentucky since 1976. The first prisoner was executed by electrocution in July 1997, but the following two – one in 1999 and most recently in 2008 – were executed by lethal injection.

As of April 1, 2022, there were 27 people on death row in Kentucky – 26 men and one woman. Notably, one of the men on death row in the state, convicted of stabbing his landlord to death in 1995, may have his sentence overturned. Kentucky in 1998 adopted the Racial Justice Act, which gives judges leeway to consider the impact racial bias may have played in convictions when handing out sentences. Currently, three death row inmates in Kentucky are Black.

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27. Idaho
> Number of executions since 1976: 3 (0.2% all U.S. executions)
> Date of last execution: Dec. 6, 2012
> Race of defendants: White: 3
> Other characteristics: Gave up appeal: 1

Idaho has executed three people since 1976. All three were men who were executed by lethal injection in 1994, 2011, and most recently, in 2012. Though there is currently one woman and several men on death row in Idaho, a shortage of lethal injection drugs in recent years has made it difficult for the state to carry out death sentences.

One of the men on Idaho’s death row was initially scheduled for execution on June 2, 2021, but the execution was deferred due to a clemency hearing. Due to his poor health, the state’s Commission of Pardons and Parole voted to reduce his sentence. However, Gov. Brad Little rejected the commission’s recommendation and the inmate has now been on death row for over three and a half decades.

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26. Nebraska
> Number of executions since 1976: 4 (0.3% all U.S. executions)
> Date of last execution: August 14, 2018
> Race of defendants: White: 2; Black: 2
> Other characteristics: Gave up appeal: 1

A total of four people – all men – have been executed in Nebraska since 1976. The most recent defendant was executed by lethal injection in August 2018. The previous three prisoners who were executed in the state in the 1990s died by electrocution. The inmate executed in 2018 was sentenced to death in 1980 for murdering two cab drivers. Though he appealed his death sentence, which resulted in it being pushed back years, he ultimately requested an end to the appeals process to allow himself to be put to death.

There are 11 men on death row in Nebraska. Earlier this year, a 12th man on death row took his own life while in custody in August 2022. The man was originally sentenced to life in prison for murder and later sentenced to death after strangling his cell mate to death in 2017. Lawmakers in Nebraska have introduced bills to abolish the state’s death penalty in every legislative session since 1981. Still, the state’s death penalty stands – despite a lack of the lethal injection drugs necessary to carry out the sentence, as manufacturers are refusing to supply them.

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