2. A Brief History of Capital
Throughout history, capital punishment has
commonly been used as a penalty for criminal
Until the Age of Enlightenment in the18th
century, death was meted out for crimes as
minor as forgery or the theft of a chicken.
The Enlightenment led to new theories on crime
and punishment. One put forth the notion that
punishment ought to fit the particular crime for
which it is applied.
3. A Brief History of Capital
Punishment – Continued
Some states banned or limited capital
punishment in the early 20th century.
U.S. v. Jackson (1968) – held that the provision
of the federal kidnapping statute that required
the death penalty to be imposed only upon the
recommendation by a jury was unconstitutional.
Witherspoon v. Illinois (1968) – a potential juror’s
mere reservations about the death penalty were
insufficient to prevent that person from serving
on the jury in a death penalty case.
4. A Brief History of Capital
Punishment – Continued
Furman v. Georgia (1972) – declared the death
penalty, as it was applied, was unconstitutional
As a result the court voided 40 death penalty
Gregg v. Georgia (1976) – upheld the guided
discretionary capital statutes
Created a bifurcated trial process
5. Capital Punishment Worldwide
As of March of 2010, the death penalty had been
abolished in law or practice in 139 countries. 58
countries still use the death penalty.
6. Capital Punishment Worldwide
In 2010, Amnesty International
documented 527 executions in 23
countries, but the total did not include
figures from China, which executes more
people than the rest of the world
combined. The five countries that reported
the most executions in 2009 were Iran
(252), North Korea (60), Yemen (53),
United States (46), and Saudi Arabia (27).
7. Capital Punishment in the U.S.
Today, 34 states, the military, and the federal
government allow capital punishment.
Sixteen states do not allow capital punishment.
The first person to be executed in the U.S. after
the moratorium ended on the death penalty was
Gary Gilmore by a Utah firing squad on January
8. Federal Death Penalty
The U.S. Constitution does not mention the
death penalty, but it does permit depriving
citizens of life after giving due process.
The first federal execution was of Thomas Bird
on June 25, 1790 when he was hanged in Maine
for the crime of murder.
Since 1790, the federal government has
executed 336 men and 4 women.
39% were white; 35% were black; 19% were Native
American; and 7% were Hispanic or other
9. Federal Death Penalty Act and the
Right to Counsel
A minimum of two lawyers should be appointed
to represent federal capital defendants.
At least one of the two lawyers must have
experience in capital work.
The federal court must consider the Federal
Public Defender’s recommendation regarding
which counsel are qualified for appointment in
10. Federal Death Row
United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Indiana
Special Confinement Unit (SCU)
On March 10, 2011, 60 people were on federal
The last three federal executions were:
Timothy McVeigh, executed June 11, 2001.
• Juan Raul Garza, executed June 19, 2001 .
• Louis Jones Jr., executed March 18, 2003.
Since the death penalty began again in
1977, 1,242 people have been executed.
Thirty-eight percent of the executions have
taken place in Texas. The South leads the
U.S. in executions.
12. Characteristics of
Death Row Inmates
Today, 3,261 people were under sentence of
death in the United States. Most are in
California (697), Florida (398), and Texas
(337). In 2008, there were 111 death
sentences issued, the fewest since 1976,
when the Supreme Court reinstated the death
13. Methods of Execution
Predominant method in U.S
Used in 37 states
First adopted in 1977 by Oklahoma
The Federal Government authorizes both lethal
injection or whichever method is in use in the
14. Death Row
A prison area housing inmates who have been
sentenced to death
A prison within a prison
All but two death penalty states (Missouri and
Tennessee) segregate death row inmates from
the general prison population
Most death row inmates spend 22 to 23 hours
per day locked down in a five-by-eight- or six-by-
15. Public Opinion and Death
Public still favors capital punishment.
Support for the death penalty drops when other
punishment options, such as life without the
possibility of parole are given.
People with higher incomes are more likely to
support capital punishment than people with
According to the Gallup Poll, public
support for capital punishment in the
United States was at its lowest in 1966
when only 42 percent of Americans
supported it. It reached its highest level
(80 percent) in 1994.
17. Politics and Death
In January 2003, Illinois Governor George
Ryan commuted 164 death sentences to life
in prison, commuted three other death row
inmates’ sentences to 40 years in prison, and
pardoned four other death row inmates
because of mounting evidence that the death
penalty was not being applied fairly in Illinois.
18. Courts and the Death Penalty
Furman v. Georgia (1972)
The death penalty, as imposed and carried out
under the laws of Georgia, was cruel and
unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth
and Fourteenth Amendments
Voided all death penalty statutes because they
allowed arbitrary and discriminatory imposition of
the death sentence
The states responded by rewriting the statutes -
some devised mandatory death penalties for
certain crimes, while others opted for guided
discretion that set standards to guide judges and
19. Courts and the Death Penalty
Mandatory Death Penalty
A death sentence that the legislature has
required to be imposed upon people convicted
of certain offenses.
Woodson v. North Carolina and Roberts v.
Louisiana (1976) rejected mandatory death
20. Courts and the Death Penalty
Gregg v. Georgia (1976)
Approved guided discretion statutes
Mandated a bifurcated trial process
The first part is the guilt phase, in which the
jury decides the issue of guilt
The second part is the penalty phase, in
which the prosecution presents aggravating
factors and the defense present mitigating
factors and a jury decides which punishment
Approved automatic appellate review
21. Key Terminology
Guided discretion: decision making bounded
by general guidelines, rules, or laws
Bifurcated trial : two separated hearings for
different issues in a trial, one for guilt and the
other for punishment
Mitigating circumstances : factors that,
although not justifying or excusing an action,
may reduce the culpability of the offender
Aggravating circumstances : factors that
may increase the culpability of the offender
22. Appealing Death
The average time between imposition of a death
sentence and execution of the offender is 11
Serious error – error that substantially
undermines the reliability of the guilt finding or
death sentence imposed at trial
Nationally, for every 100 death sentences
imposed, 41 were turned back at the trial and
direct review phase because of serious error
23. Appealing Death – Continued
Death penalty cases may pass through as
many as 10 courts across three stages:
trial and direct review, state postconviction
appeals, and federal habeas corpus
24. Appealing Death – Continued
Second stage reviews (state post-
conviction appeals) detect serious error in
10 percent of the capital cases reviewed
Despite extensive state-level appellate
review, federal courts still find serious
error in 40 percent of the capital cases
25. The Liebman Study
The overall rate of prejudicial error in the U.S.
capital punishment system is 68%
Serious flaws existed in more than two out of
three capital cases reviewed by the courts
The error rate in some states exceeded 75%
Almost 1,000 retried cases ended in sentences
less than death
Retrials in 87 cases ended in verdicts of not
26. Juveniles and the Death Penalty
The first juvenile executed was Thomas
Graunger in 1642 when he was hanged in
Massachusetts for buggery. He was sixteen.
The U.S. has put to death 365 people for
offenses they committed as children.
From 1976 to March 2, 2005, 22 people were
executed for crimes they committed as
27. Juveniles and the Death Penalty
In Thompson v. Oklahoma (1988), the
Court held that it is unconstitutional to
execute a 15-year-old.
In Roper v. Simmons (2005) the Court
held that it is unconstitutional to execute
anyone for a crime they committed before
turning age 18.
28. Juveniles and the Death Penalty
Justices cited scientific literature from the
American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry, the American Medical Association,
and the American Psychological Association
showing that adolescents lack mature judgment,
are less aware of the consequences of their
decisions and actions, are more vulnerable than
adults to peer pressure, and have a greater
tendency toward impulsiveness and lesser
reasoning skills, regardless of how big they are
or how tough they talk
29. The Mentally Retarded and Death
Atkins v. Virginia (2002) held the execution of
the mentally retarded to be a violation of the
Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and
The Court cited the development of a national
consensus against such executions.
Atkins also left it to the states to define mental