Special Report

Where the Most People Have Been Executed in the United States

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20. Nevada
> Number of executions since 1976: 12 (0.8% all U.S. executions)
> Date of last execution: April 26, 2006
> Race of defendants: White: 9; Black: 2; Latino/a: 1
> Other characteristics: Gave up appeal: 11

Nevada became the first state to use the gas chamber to execute death row inmates in 1924. However, of the 12 prisoners executed in the state since 1976, only the first, which took place in 1979, died by gas. The remaining 11 men were killed by lethal injection.

Nevada has not executed a prisoner since 2006. Earlier this year, an execution was put on hold as the drugs that were to be used for the lethal injection were set to expire before a formal death warrant could be issued. Those drugs include a combination of ketamine, fentanyl, and either potassium chloride or potassium acetate.

There are currently 65 men on death row in Nevada. All are slated to have their sentences carried out in Ely State Prison.

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19. California
> Number of executions since 1976: 13 (0.8% all U.S. executions)
> Date of last execution: Jan. 17, 2006
> Race of defendants: White: 8; Black: 4; Asian: 1
> Other characteristics: Gave up appeal: 2

There have been 13 executions in California since 1976 – the first two defendants were executed in 1992 and 1993 using the gas chamber. The remaining 11 prisoners, who were executed between 1996 and 2006, died by lethal injection.

In 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to dismantle the state’s death row. In the announcement, Newsom said, “The prospect of your ending up on death row has more to do with your wealth and race than it does your guilt or innocence.” Currently, the largest share of inmates on death row in the state are Black.

Due to the moratorium, male death row inmates will be relocated from San Quentin to other maximum security facilities. Women from Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla will be given the option of less restrictive housing and join rehabilitation and work programs.

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18. Tennessee
> Number of executions since 1976: 13 (0.8% all U.S. executions)
> Date of last execution: Feb. 20, 2020
> Race of defendants: White: 12; Black: 1
> Other characteristics: Gave up appeal: 1

Each of the 13 executions carried out in Tennessee since 1976 took place between April 2000 and February 2020. Six of the executions were done by electrocution, and seven used lethal injection.

Though there are currently 46 men and one woman on death row in Tennessee, the state has put a hold on executions for an indefinite amount of time due to breaches of protocol. The hold has been in place since Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued a reprieve to an inmate facing an imminent execution in April 2022. Since then, an independent investigation found multiple instances of noncompliance regarding executions in the state related to lethal injection drugs, including faulty testing procedures and improper storage and handling.

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17. Delaware
> Number of executions since 1976: 16 (1.0% all U.S. executions)
> Date of last execution: April 20, 2012
> Race of defendants: White: 8; Black: 7; Native: 1
> Other characteristics: Gave up appeal: 5

Though Delaware became the second state to abolish the death penalty in 1958, the state legislature reinstated capital punishment in 1961. Since the federal prohibition of executions was struck down in 1976, Delaware has executed 16 prisoners, all of whom were men whose sentences were carried out by lethal injection.

An August 2016 Delaware Supreme Court decision stated that the state’s capital sentencing procedure was a violation of citizens’ constitutional right to a trial by jury, as death sentences in Delaware are administered by judges rather than the unanimous approval of a jury. As a result, the state’s death penalty has effectively been struck down, and Delaware’s 13 death row inmates at the time had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. The last execution in the state was held on April 20, 2012.

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16. U.S. federal government
> Number of executions since 1976: 16 (1.0% all U.S. executions)
> Date of last execution: Jan. 16, 2021
> Race of defendants: White: 7; Black: 7; Latino/a: 1; Native: 1
> Other characteristics: Gave up appeal: 1; Female defendants: 1

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, the federal government has executed a total of 16 inmates – and only three of those executions, including that of Timothy McVeigh, the man charged with the Oklahoma City bombing, took place before 2020. In the final months of the Trump administration, there was a surge in federal executions. From July 2020 through January 2021, the U.S. government executed 13 prisoners.

Today, the federal government has a standing moratorium on executions, imposed by Attorney General Merrick Garland on July 1, 2021. While no federal death sentence will be carried out as long as the moratorium stands, there were 44 death row inmates under federal jurisdiction as of April 1, 2022. According to Death Penalty Information Center, only one federal death row prisoner has a sentence related to terrorism. The rest were already serving sentences for their crimes at the state level, but circumstances allowed for federal prosecution as well (such as a vehicle used in a carjacking once shipped through interstate commerce).

Federal death row prisoners are typically housed at the Special Confinement Unit at the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute in Indiana. Each federal death sentence must be authorized by the Department of Justice in consultation with the U.S. Attorney Offices.

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