The death penalty – or capital punishment – is a government-sanctioned punishment for committing a crime. If someone is convicted and given the death penalty, that person will be executed, or put to death, as a punishment for that crime.
Only people that are convicted of committing capital crimes and offenses are eligible to receive the death penalty. Crimes that fall into this category include murder, espionage, war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and treason.
A person that has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to the death penalty is sent to death row. This is a part of a prison where inmates awaiting execution are housed. In most cases, a convict may sit on death row for several years during the habeas corpus and appeals processes.
The death penalty is a controversial topic. Many opponents of capital punishment feel that it is morally wrong, some think that it is influenced by racial bias, and others believe that keeping prisoners in limbo for years on Death Row has adverse effects on mental health.
How many states still have the death penalty? In the United States, the death penalty is legal in 30 states. A total of 20 states – plus Washington D.C. – have abolished the death penalty.
The first state to do this was Wisconsin, which made the punishment illegal in the year 1853. Most recently, Washington, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, and Illinois have all abolished capital punishment.
Florida is one of 30 states that have the death penalty. The first execution in Florida was in 1827. Since 1976, after the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, Florida has executed 99 convicted murderers, including notorious serial killer Ted Bundy on January 24, 1989. On June 14, 2013, Governor Rick Scott signed the Timely Justice Act of 2013, which speeds up the process of capital punishment by creating tighter time frames for the sentenced to make appeals and imposes reporting requirements on case progress. As of September 10, 2019, there are 340 offenders waiting for execution.
Does California have the death penalty? Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the state of California. Between 1778 and 1972, California carried out 709 executions. In 1972, the California Supreme Court struck down the state capital punishment statute in People vs. Anderson, which was reinstated by voters months later. As of August 2017, there are 746 inmates on death row, but the last execution in California was in 2006.
Texas has the death penalty. Texas was the first jurisdiction in the world to carry out an execution by lethal injection in 1964. From 1976 to September 25, 2019, Texas has executed 565 offenders, more than a third of the nation’s total. There are several reasons why Texas has the highest number of executions, such as the required strictness of appellate judges. Additionally, Texas relies upon court-appointed lawyers for indigent defendants, who likely do not have experience in capital defenses or appeals.
Colorado is also one of the 30 states that have the death penalty as a legal punishment. Capital punishment in Colorado was last reinstated by popular vote with 61% in favor. Death row is located in Colorado State Penitentiary, where three people await execution. Democrats in Colorado introduced a bill in March 2019 that would abolish capital punishment, making Colorado the 21st state to abolish the death penalty.