For the first time in over 17 years, the U.S. federal government executed a prisoner on death row on Tuesday. States in the country have executed 7 people in 2020, and have generally had much more say in whether they participate in allowing the death penalty or not. Historically, some states are much quicker in expediting death row inmates and carrying out executions.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Virginia has executed the most people with 1,390 executions since 1609. Texas comes in a close second with 1,325, and New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia round out the top five.
Half the country – 25 states – still have a legal death penalty in place, while 22 states have abolished the practice and 3 have moratoriums imposed by current governors. While the death penalty is technically legal in those 25 states, it’s still very rare to execute a prisoner in 2020. Legal battles, appeals and the overall high cost of an execution keep most states from going down that path. Others, most notably Texas, continue to operate executions fairly regularly in the country.
The debate over the death penalty in the U.S. involves a clash between the country’s strong sense of justice and punishment against the immorality of government-sanctioned killings and the executions of falsely convicted people. There are plenty of examples which suggest federal and state governments have executed innocent people or people that later have evidence to overturn a conviction. There’s also strong data that points to Black and brown people accounting for a disproportionate amount of executions since at least 1976.