Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is a government-sanctioned practice where a person is killed as punishment for a crime. A death sentence is the sentence that someone is to be punished via the death penalty. Execution is the act of carrying out the death sentence. Crimes that are punishable by the death penalty are known as capital crimes, capital offenses, or capital felonies and include crimes such as murder, mass murder, aircraft hijacking, terrorism, and drug trafficking among many others.
Capital punishment is controversial in many states and countries around the world. Proponents of capital punishment argue that it is an important tool to deter crime, costs less than life imprisonment, and can often help the victim or grieving families feel better. Opponents of the death penalty argue that the punishment is inhumane and biased, and does not deter crime.
The US Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty does not violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty, while 29 states still retain the death penalty.
The following states have abolished the death penalty:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
The rest of the US states retain the death penalty.
Out of the 29 states that still retain the death penalty, eight of them had executions in 2018. A total of 25 executions were performed, a historic low in the United States. Texas had the highest number of executions with a total of 13, all of which were men.