Fast Facts: Breaking down the current state of the death penalty
September 20th, 2011
10:47 AM ET

Fast Facts: Breaking down the current state of the death penalty

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole has denied clemency for death-row inmate Troy Davis.

Davis was convicted of the 1989 killing of Savannah, Georgia, police officer Mark MacPhail. He is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Wednesday at a state prison in Jackson, Georgia.

Davis' case gained momentum with the support of Amnesty International, ex-President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others, calling for clemency to be granted.

However, the Georgia Parole board denied Davis clemency once before. And the board has never changed its mind on any case in the past 33 years.

The high-profile case has again brought the death penalty back into the spotlight. So we're taking a look at the current state of the death penalty, the clemency process and specifically the statistics in Georgia.

Death penalty statistics:

- More than 3,200 inmates in 36 states are awaiting execution. The U.S. government and U.S. military also have approximately 67 people awaiting execution.

- As of September 18, 2011 – 1,267 people have been executed in the U.S. since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated.

- Capital punishment is legal in 34 states.

- The legal methods of capital punishment are lethal injection and the electric chair.

- 35 states use lethal injection.  New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009; however, two prisoners remain on death row and will be executed by lethal injection.

-  The state of Nebraska used the electric chair as its sole method until February 2008, when the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional.

- Japan is the only industrial democracy besides the United States that has the death penalty.

- 268 clemencies have been granted in the United States since 1976; 187 were in Illinois.

- Over 75% of the murder victims in cases resulting in an execution were white, even though nationally only 50% of murder victims generally are

-  A  2010 national poll of registered voters conducted by Lake Research Partners showed growing support for alternatives to the death penalty compared with previous polls. A clear majority of voters (61%) would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder, including life with no possibility of parole and with restitution to the victim’s family (39%), life with no possibility of parole (13%), or life with the possibility of parole (9%).

- Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.

- Texas leads the way in executions with 474 total executions. In 2011 they executed 10 people, in 2010 they executed 17 people and in 2009 they executed 24 people. Virginia comes in with the second highest number of total executions at 109. In 2011 they executed one person, in 2010 and 2009 they executed 3 people each year.

Clemency statistics:

- In sixteen states the governor has the sole authority to grant clemency: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

In California the governor may not grant a pardon or commutation to a person twice convicted of a felony except on recommendation of the state Supreme Court, with at least four judges concurring. New York and New Jersey no longer have the death penalty. New Mexico no longer has the death penalty for cases after 2009, though two inmates still remain on death row.

- In seven states the governor must have a recommendation of clemency from an advisory group or board: Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.

In Florida the governor must have recommendation of Board, on which he or she sits.

- In ten states the governor can get a non-binding recommendation for clemency from an advisory group or board: Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio and Tennessee.

Illinois no longer has the death penalty.

- In five states an advisory group or a board determines clemency: Connecticut, Georgia, Nebraska, Nevada and Utah.

 Georgia death penalty statistics:

- Georgia has executed 51 people since 1976.

- In the 1972 case Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court struck down three death sentences, deeming them "cruel and unusual." The ruling effectively suspended capital punishment across the country. States then began rewriting their statutes to comply with the court's ruling.

The death penalty was re-enacted in Georgia in 1973. In 1976, the new law was taken to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Georgia's new capital punishment procedure were sufficient in reducing arbitrary imposition of the death penalty.

- Prior to 1976, Georgia executed 950 people.

- Currently there are 103 people on death row in Georgia. One of them is a woman.

- Georgia's most recent execution was of Andrew Grant DeYoung. He was the third person executed in 2011 by Georgia. His case gained national attention because the execution was videotaped.

- In Georgia, a defendant can get death for a felony where they are not responsible for the murder.

- Five innocent people have been freed from death row in Georgia.

- Seven clemencies have been granted. In Georgia, the State Board of Pardons has exclusive authority to grant clemency. Georgia is one of five states that operates this way.

Sources: CNN, U.S. State Department, Death Penalty Information Center

Post by:
Filed under: Courts • Crime • Death Penalty • Justice
soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. Ms.Wys81

    I'm wondering when CNN will report on the how the parole board of the state of Georgia spared a convicted killer just hours before he was to die by lethel injection on Thursday? Samuel David Crowe, 47, has his sentence commuted to life in prison. Funny how the parole board made a decision less than 3 hours before he was to be executed. Justice is not a fair game here in the U.S. that's for sure

    September 23, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. Kenny

    Capital punishment is legal in 34 states, but 35 states use lethal injection. Maybe you guys should try using spell check.

    September 23, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Tee

      You did not read it fully. The 35th state has done away with the death penalty but has to punish the two that was currently on death row

      March 31, 2013 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CBernstien

    The arguments in support of the ballot measure to abolish the death penalty are exaggerated at best and, in most cases, misleading and erroneous. The Act would only make our prisons less safe for both other prisoners and prison officials, significantly increase the costs to taxpayers due to life-time medical costs, the increased security required to coerce former death-row inmates to work, etc. The amount “saved” in order to help fund law enforcement is negligible and only for a short period of time. Bottom line, the “SAFE” Act is an attempt by those who are responsible for the high costs and lack of executions to now persuade voters to abandon it on those ground. Obviously, these arguments would disappear if the death penalty was carried forth in accordance with the law. Get the facts at and supporting evidence at

    July 10, 2012 at 3:13 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7