The death penalty is a a very controversial punishment and there are still two sides of the issues. Some still believe that the death penalty is necessary to remain in the system while others consider it a barbaric and medieval punishment, lets not talk about expensive. Here are 20 facts you might not have known about the death sentence, some are pro death penalty facts and others are against.
There are 32 states in the United States that allow the death penalty. Maryland, became the last state that has repealed the capital punishment, on the 2nd of May, 2013. With this, Maryland joined the District of Columbia and 17 other states. The first American state which outlawed the death penalty, was Rhode Island, in 1852, and was followed by Wisconsin in 1853.
In the United States, there are at least 42 federal crimes that are punished with the death penalty(as of December 2010).Among those crimes are included, genocide, different types of murder, espionage and treason. The top five death penalties in the United States, between 1608 and 2002 were murder, 12,111- 81,8%, rape, 988-6.7%, slave revolt 277/1.9%, robbery 158-1.1% and break in burglary, 252.1,7%.
From January 1st 1977 to December 31st 2009, in the US there have been sentenced to death 1,188 people, out of which 1,016 were executed by lethal injection, 156 of them by electrocution, 11 were put in the gas chamber, three were hanged and two were executed by a firing squad. In 2010, there were 46 death executions, the lowest number of capital punishment since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstalled in the United States. Before 2010, the record for the lowest number of death executions had been in 2009, with 52 sentences. The state with the highest number of death sentences ever, has been Texas, with 17 executions in 2010.
In 2010, there had been carried out at least 527 executions, by around 23 countries, without counting the thousands of death sentences carried out by China, where statistics regarding the death penalty are considered a state secret. In Iran there were executed more than 252 people, in North Korea over 60 people and in the United States, 46. As of December 31st, 2010, at least 17,833 people have been sentenced to death on a global level.
On the 4th of January 1903, Thomas Edison electrocuted Topsy the Elephant, inflicting in his body 6,000 volts of electricity on front of 1,500 people who came to watch, at Luna Park Zoo, situated on Coney Island. The execution was filmed by Edison(for those who are curious to watch, you have to know that the graphic of the material might be emotionally harmful) as he wanted to demonstrate the dangers of alternating current, which was a threat for the profitability of his direct current method of distribution of electricity.
Here is another interesting death penalty fact. Have you ever wondered what is inside of a lethal injection? An injection of this type, is made out of a combination of three drugs. The first one is sodium thiopental for anesthesia, the second is pancuronium bromide as a paralyzer and the last one is potassium chloride, the substance that induces cardiac arrest. Sixteen states are using lethal injection as the only method of execution. On the 21st of January, 2011, the single sodium thiopental producer in the United States, announced that they would stop producing the drug.
The first state to have performed a death execution with a sole drug intravenous lethal injection, has been Ohio, on December 8th, 2009.
Nebraska has been the last state who used electrocution as the only method of execution. On February 8th , 2008, Nebraska Supreme Court declared the electrocution method as unconstitutional.
Starting with September 2011, Arizona, Missouri, Wyoming and California, have remained the only states which allow the use of the gas chamber as a method of execution. Arizona allows the gas chamber, if a prisoner had been given the death sentence before the state switched to the lethal injection, and if the prisoner chooses the gas chamber over the lethal injection. In Wyoming, the gas chamber is retained as optional, in case the lethal injection will be ever found unconstitutional.
The lethal gas that is released into the gas chamber, is obtained by dropping potassium cyanide or sodium cyanide into a pan with hydrochloric acid.
One other of the death penalty facts, is that Washington and New Hampshire re the only states that allow hanging as a method of execution, starting from September 12th, 2011.In New Hampshire, the hanging method is applied, if lethal injection cannot be used.
Virginia was the state which has executed the most people from 1608 to 2002, toping all of the other states. Executing a total of 1,361 people, followed by New York with 1,130 people, Pennsylvania with 1043 people, Texas with 1,031 and Georgia with 1,031.Between 1608-2002, 143 American convicts had been executed by gun fire, 66 had been burned alive, 15 had been hung in chains to death, 14 had been broke on wheel and one of them was pressed to death by heavy objects.
Oklahoma and Utah allow capital punishments by shooting by a firing squad. In Oklahoma, a firing squad can be used if lethal injections and electrocutions were to be found unconstitutional. Utah repealed the practice in May, 2004, but if inmates who had been sentenced to death before it was outlawed can choose this method.
In Utah took place, the last execution by firing squad, in June 2008. Ronnie Lee Gardner, the convicted criminal, was the third person in 33 years that was executed by firing squad, and all three executions took place in Utah. Gardner was given the option to choose the firing squad, as he had been sentenced before Utah repealed firing squads on May 2004.
Another death penalty fact is that, the top occupations of Americans sentenced to death between 1608-20002, were: slaves(1,748 people), labourers(585 people), farmhand(369 people) and farm labourers(168 people).
The first official execution that took place in the United States, happened in 1608, after Captain George Kendall from the James Town colony, was sentenced to death by firing squad for committing the crime of mutiny.
The US Supreme Court, declared the execution of mentally retarded criminals unconstitutional in a 6-3 vote in Atkins vs.Virginia, which took place on the 20th of June, 2002.
One of the interesting death penalty facts, is, that in June 1980, The American Medical Association, said that physicians should not participate in executions.
California has executed its oldest prisoner, Clarence Ray Allen, right in the day he turned 76 years old, on January 17, 2006.The criminal convicted for murder was in a wheel chair and blind at the time of his execution and was the last person to be executed in California, starting with September 12th, 2011.
A legislative audit, from 2003 from Kansas, stated that the estimated cost for a death sentence case cost 70% more than a non death penalty case. Costs for a death penalty case, were calculated trough the execution and the average arrived at $1.26 million. Cases of non death penalty costs were calculated trough the end of the sentence, and the average was $740,000.
In Tennessee, death penalty cases have a 48% average higher cost, than the average cost of cases in which prosecutors go for life incarceration.
In Maryland, death sentences cost 3 times more than non death sentences, $3 million for a single death sentence.
In California, the present system, costs $137 million a year, and the costs per year would arrive at $11.5 million if the system didn’t have the death penalty.