To be or not to be? The death penalty question.

death-penalty1

Photo credit to Stephenhicks.org

In wake of the Dzhokihar Tsarnaev jury verdict, the trend around social media is whether or not the death penalty should be abolished in the United States. No one is immune from the stories, the questions, the buzz, especially in Massachusetts.

Is the death penalty constitutional?  Does the death penalty deter crime?  Is the death penalty fair and just?  Is the use of the death penalty for sentencing, in all or some circumstances, considered cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Laws of the States?  What about people with mental incapacitates and serious IQ issues?  Should they die too?  Does race or economic status play a role? What about botched lethal injections and firing squad issues?  Then there’s the trendy “did you knows.”

Did you know that thirty two (32) US states plus the Military and the Federal government still have the death penalty?  Did you know that in 2013, the average murder rate of death penalty states was 4.4, while the average murder rate for states without the death penalty was only 3.4?  Did you know that since 1973, over 140 people on death row in the US have been found innocent and exonerated from their crimes?  It’s a lot to think about.

Because it is a lot to read, a lot to think about and Massachusetts inquiring minds can’t wait to know, below is a relatively brief state-by-state compilation (the low-down) of a few interesting facts on death penalty, lethal injections and so on.  Most of the information gathered is strictly online news and op-ed articles, so don’t rely upon it for anything substantial like a doctoral dissertation or expert opinion. The Death Penalty Information Center is a very good resourse for most Death Penalty facts.  Please keep in mind, this information has not been verified or fact-checked or cite-checked (see disclaimer, below).

The best way to absorb all this information is to look at it from top to bottom.  Just skim, don’t read it all.  You can then go back to look at the facts for the state or topic you like.  If you like, check out a trend that’s interesting and and compare, like murder rate.  If you want to learn more, come back.  Read an article or two later.  It’s a lot to absorb in one fell swoop.

“To be or not to be” is the real death penalty question.  Decide for yourself and take away a few cocktail party or BBQ cook-out talking points.

Please feel free to comment or question.  There is so much to talk about.

*Note: The Murder rates, below, are per 10,000 people in 2013.

Alaska – Murder rate* – 4.6; [No Death Penalty; Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Alabama – Murder rate* – 7.2; Current death row population: 198 (5 are women); Method: Choice of injection or electrocution; Death Penalty Crimes: Intentional murder with 18 aggravating factors (Ala. Stat. Ann. 13A-5-40(a)(1)-(18))

Arkansas – Murder rate* – 5.4; Death row population: 34 (0 are women); Method: Injection or choice of Injection or electrocution for crimes after 1983; Death Penalty Crimes: Capital murder (Ark. Code Ann. 5-10-101) with a finding of at least 1 of 10 aggravating circumstances; treason.

Arizona – Murder rate* – 5.4; Death row population: 124 (3 are women); Method: Injection / Choice of Gas Chamber if sentenced before 11/92; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder, including premeditated murder and felony murder, accompanied by at least 1 of 14 aggravating factors (A.R.S. § 13-703(F)).

California – Murder rate* – 5.4; Death row population: 743 (19 are women); Method: Injection / Choice of Gas Chamber; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with special circumstances; sabotage; train wrecking causing death; treason; perjury causing execution of an innocent person; fatal assault by a prisoner serving a life sentence. Trending: California’s stay of executions requiring lethal injections resulting in overcapacity of death row prison, according to a March 30, 2015 LA Times news article.  

Colorado – Murder rate* – 3.4; Death row population: 3 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes:First-degree murder with at least 1 of 17 aggravating factors; first-degree kidnapping resulting in death; treason.  Trending: CBS News: Colorado has no moratorium on the death penalty as the jury deliberates on the verdict of Colorado movie theater shooter, James Holmes.   In an April 17, 2015 poll by WBUR, the death penalty is becoming increasingly unpopular.

Connecticut – Murder rate* – 2.4; [Abolished the death penalty in 2012]

District of Columbia – Murder rate* – 15.9; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Delaware – Murder rate* – 4.2; Death row population: 17 (0 are women); Method: Injection or choice of injection of hanging for offenses prior to 6/13/86; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder (11 Del. C. § 636) with at least 1 statutory aggravating circumstance (11 Del. C. § 4209). Trending: April 1, 2015, Delaware Online states, the Delaware ex-prison warden says the Delaware death penalty creates an immeasurable burden on the prison system and doesn’t make the guards any safer.

Florida – Murder rate* – 5; Death row population: 403 (4 are women); Method: Choice of Injection or Gas Chamber; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder; felony murder; capital drug trafficking; capital sexual battery. Trending: The US Supreme Court has granted cert to consider the constitutionality of Florida’s sentencing scheme for capital cases and the use of the death penalty for mentally disabled criminals. Unlike Ohio and Oklahoma, no stay of executions has been granted in Florida as of March 9, 2015, according to a US News March 9, 2015 article.

Georgia – Murder rate* – 5.6; Death row population: 87 (1 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Murder with aggravating circumstances; kidnapping with bodily injury or ransom when the victim dies; aircraft hijacking; treason. As of March, 2015, the Georgia Department of Corrections announced a moratorium on executions due to the difficulty in acquiring lethal injection drugs.

Hawaii – Murder rate* – 1.5; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Idaho – Murder rate* – 1.7; Death row population: 11 (1 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with aggravating factors; first-degree kidnapping; perjury resulting in the execution of an innocent person.

Illinois – Murder rate* – 5.5; [Abolished the death penalty in 2011]

Iowa – Murder rate* – 1.4; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Indiana – Murder rate* – 5.4; Death row population: 14 (1 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Murder with 16 aggravating circumstances (IC 35-50-2-9).

Kansas – Murder rate* – 3.9; Death row population: 10 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Capital murder with 8 aggravating circumstances (KSA 21-3439, KSA 21-4625, KSA 21-4636). Trending: According to ScotUS, a stay of current executions in Kansas due to the Monday, March 30, 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision to grant review of three Kansas death penalty cases based on the constitutionality of the death penalty imposed for the mentally disabled.

Kentucky – Murder rate* – 3.8; Death row population: 35 (1 are women); Method: Injection for those sentenced on or after 3/31/98, Injection or Electrocution for those sentenced prior; Death Penalty Crimes: Capital murder with the presence of at least one statutory aggravating circumstance; capital kidnapping (KRS 532.025).

Louisiana – Murder rate* – 10.8; Death row population: 85 (2 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder; treason (La. R.S. 14:30 and 14:113). Trending: March 30, 2015 NYT article reported, the US Supreme Court heard oral argument in a Louisiana case that presented questions on the role of the federal courts in determining whether a state prisoner who faces the death penalty has intellectual disability. In March, 2015, three Prosecutors in Louisiana, responsible for 75% of Louisiana’s death sentences, facing prosecutorial misconduct charges, according to the New Orleans Advocate.

Maryland – Murder rate* – 6.4; [Abolished the death penalty in 2013]

Massachusetts – Murder rate* – 2; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Maine – Murder rate – 1.8*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Michigan – Murder rate – 6.4*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Minnesota – Murder rate – 2.1*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Mississippi – Murder rate – 6.5*; Death row population: 48 (2 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Capital murder (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19(2)); aircraft piracy (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-25-55(1)).

Missouri – Murder rate – 6.1*; Death row population: 35 (0 are women); Method: Choice of Injection or Gas; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder (565.020 RSMO 2000).

Montana – Murder rate – 2.2*; Death row population: 2 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes:Capital murder with 1 of 9 aggravating circumstances (Mont. Code Ann. § 46-18-303); aggravated kidnapping; felony murder; aggravated sexual intercourse without consent (Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-503).

Nebraska – Murder rate – 3.1*; Death row population: 11 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with a finding of at least 1 statutorily-defined aggravating circumstance.

Nevada – Murder rate – 5.8*; Death row population: 77 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with at least 1 of 15 aggravating circumstances (NRS 200.030, 200.033, 200.035).

New Hampshire – Murder rate – 1.7*; Death row population: 1 (0 are women); Method: Injection or hanging if injection is not possible; Death Penalty Crimes: Murder committed in the course of rape, kidnapping, drug crimes, or burglary; killing of a police officer, judge or prosecutor; murder for hire; murder by an inmate while serving a sentence of life without parole (RSA 630:1, RSA 630:5).

New Jersey – Murder rate – 4.5*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Nevada – Murder rate – 5.8*; Death row population: 77 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: More research is required.

New Mexico – Murder rate – 6*; [abolished the death penalty in 2009]

New York* – Murder rate – 3.3*; [New York abolished the death penalty in 2007]

North Carolina – Murder rate – 4.8*; Death row population: 158 (4 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder (NCGS §14-17) with the finding of at least 1 of 11 statutory aggravating circumstances (NCGS §15A-2000).

North Dakota – Murder rate – 2.2*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Ohio – Murder rate – 3.9*; Death row population: 145 (1 are women); Method: Injection, 1-drug protocol; Death Penalty Crimes: Aggravated murder with at least 1 of 10 aggravating circumstances (O.R.C. secs. 2903.01, 2929.02, and 2929.04). Trending: April 8, 2015, Cleveland.com mentioned changes to Ohio’s lethal injection protocol are being considered in the wake of the botched execution of Dennis McGuire which resulted in the postponement (stay) of all executions in Ohio until 2016.

Oklahoma – Murder rate – 5.1*; Death row population: 49 (1 are women); Method: Injection or electrocution/firing squad of injection is unconstitutional; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder in conjunction with a finding of at least 1 of 8 statutorily-defined aggravating circumstances.  Trending:  According to a Fredericksburg.com editorial article, As of March, 2015, a moratorium on executions in Oklahoma still exists in wake of the US Supreme Court deliberations on whether or a failed Oklahoma execution was constitutional based on cruel and unusual punishment.

Oregon – Murder rate – 2*; Death row population: 36 (1 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Aggravated murder (ORS 163.095).

Pennsylvania – Murder rate – 4.7*; Death row population: 188 (4 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with 18 aggravating circumstances. Trending: Recent poll by York College of Pennsylvania shows 54% not in favor of death penalty.  Death Penalty Moratorium in place by executive order in February, 2015.

Rhode Island – Murder rate – 2.9*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

South Carolina – Murder rate – 6.2*; Death row population: 45 (0 are women); Method: Choice of injection or electrocution; Death Penalty Crimes: Murder with 1 of 12 aggravating circumstances (§ 16-3-20(C)(a)) Trending:  According to a recent Post and Courier news articleSouth Carolina faces a moratorium on executions due to the difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs.

South Dakota – Murder rate – 2.4*; Death row population: 3 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with 1 of 10 aggravating circumstances. Trending: In a February, 2015 Argus Leader news-article, South Dakota state senator discusses sponsoring a Bill to abolish the death penalty.

Tennessee – Murder rate – 5*; Death row population: 73 (1 are women); Method: Injection for crimes after December 31, 1998, electrocution may be selected for crimes prior; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202) with 1 of 16 aggravating circumstances (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-204).  Trending: April 10, 2015, the Tennessean reported that the Tennessee Supreme Court stayed all executions to review challenges to the constitutionality of the 1-drug injection protocol.

Texas – Murder rate – 4.3*; Death row population: 276 (10 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Criminal homicide with 1 of 9 aggravating circumstances (Tex. Penal Code § 19.03). Trending: According to the Texas TribuneExecutions in Texas jeopardized if disclosure of lethal injection drug suppliers is to be required, according to the Texas Tribune, April 15, 2015. Also, according to an April 2015 USA Today article a Texas lawyer, Maurie Levin, states  “Even though Texas has managed to continue to carry out executions, it’s a mistake to think it’s business as usual.”

Utah – Murder rate – 1.7*; Death row population: 9 (0 are women); Method: Injection or firing squad if injection is unconstitutional and for inmates who chose firing squad prior to 5/3/2004; Death Penalty Crimes: Aggravated murder (76-5-202, Utah Code Annotated).

Vermont – Murder rate – 1.6*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Virginia – Murder rate – 3.8*; Death row population: 8 (0 are women); Method: Choice of injection or electrocution; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with 1 of 15 aggravating circumstances (VA Code § 18.2-31). Trending: April 8, 2015, in a Roanoke News article, after the exoneration of Earl Washington, Mark Early, former Virginia attorney general stated, “I no longer have such faith in the government and, therefore, cannot and do not support the death penalty.” No executions are currently scheduled in Virginia as of March, 2015. according to Fredericksburg.com OpEd.

Washington – Murder rate – 2.3*; Death row population: 9 (0 are women); Method: Choice of injection or hanging; Death Penalty Crimes: Aggravated first-degree murder.

Wisconsin – Murder rate – 2.8*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Wyoming – Murder rate – 2.9*; Death row population: 1 (0 are women); Method: Injection  or gas if injection is found unconstitutional; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder; murder during the commission of sexual assault, sexual abuse of a minor, arson, robbery, burglary, escape, resisting arrest, kidnapping, or abuse of a minor under 16. (W.S.A. § 6-2-101(a))

US Military – Murder rate – 4.4*; Death row population: 62 (2 are women); Method: method of state where sentence imposed; Death Penalty Crimes: The U.S. military has its own laws and court system separate from those of the states and the federal government. Trending: According to a June 18, 2012 New Tribune news article, Capital punishment for military crimes is rare, the last military execution took place in 1961 (which gives rise to the question as to the legality and logic of retaining 62 prisoners on death row if there have been no executions in over 50 years).

US Federal Govt. – Murder rate – 0*; Death row population: 6 (0 are women) [Update: As of May 15, 2015, due to the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentencing determination, the death row population is now 7] ; Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Further research required. Trending: Attorney General Eric Holder is seeking the death penalty in the matter of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,  “Boston Marathon bomber” which may be applied to 17 of 30 counts with which Tsarnaev was found guilty on April 8, 2015, according to a recent Time article published April 25, 2015 and Issues have been raised as to the effect of jury decision and impartiality in the Tsarnaev trial, according a recent New Yorker article.

Below, are a few more interesting articles regarding the death penalty and the Tsarnaev trial…

See, Vanity Fair March 2015 news article discussion regarding the lawyer defending Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Judy Clarke, cruel and unusual punishment and the death penalty in this Federal trial.

See, January 7, 2014 Boston Bar Biz News article regarding the Boston Bar Association’s stand against the death penalty.

See, The Pew Research Center, regarding a wealth of valuable information regarding the death penalty.

**Important Update:  May 15, 2015, as reported in the New York Times, Dzhokar Tsarnaev was given the Death Penalty sentence in the Boston Marathon Bombing Trial.

Enjoy!

ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Her law practice is focused on consumer finance and bankruptcy.  However, Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work.  On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.  To find out more visit,www.attorneykelly.squarespace.comhttp://www.attorneykelly.wordpress.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

Filed under Constitution, Death Penalty, Law, Legal, Lethal Injection, Trending, Trial

One response to “To be or not to be? The death penalty question.

  1. Pingback: To be or not to be? The death penalty question. | Attorney Kelly

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