Capital Punishment Facts & Figures

Over 7,000 people were legally executed in the United States in the 20th century.

Over 3,000 men and women now sit on death rows across the country awaiting the same fate.

Since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court, 1,400 people have been executed. Over the same period, 156 people on death row were exonerated – reflecting approximately a 10% error rate. If this same percentage was true for the 7,000 people who were executed in the 20th century, that means approximately 700 were killed erroneously and 300 of the 3,000 people currently sitting on death row could be exonerated. In addition, 10% or 200,000 of the approximately 2 million prisoners in the U.S. may have conviction errors as well.

The people who were exonerated sat on death row for an average of 9.8 years.

81% of Americans say they do not trust government “always or most of the time,” yet 60% still believe the government should have the power to put its citizens to death.

Pew Research & Gallup

Public support for the death penalty peaked in 1994 at 80% but has gradually declined since then.


Views about the death penalty vary by religion. Those who support it:
  • 75% of White evangelical Protestants
  • 73% of White non-evangelical Protestants
  • 53% of Catholics
  • 43% of Agnostics
  • 35% of Atheists

Pew Research Center

Despite being in favor of capital punishment,
  • 78% of Americans say there is some risk of innocent people being put to death.
  • 56% say that Black people are more likely than White people to be sentenced to death for committing similar crimes.

  • And 63% say that the death penalty does not deter people from committing serious crimes.

Pew Research Center

The South, despite committing 80% of the nation’s executions, has the highest murder rate. The Northeast, which committed less than 1% of all executions, has the lowest murder rate.

FBI Uniform Crime Report

The nations with the most known executions are: Iran with 60% of the total, Pakistan with 20%, Saudi Arabia with 10%. (China & North Korea are believed to carry out thousands of executions.)

Amnesty International

The states with the most executions in the U.S. over the past 40 years are: Texas (37%), Oklahoma (8%), Virginia (8%), Florida (6%), Missouri (6%), and Georgia (5%).

Amnesty International

Some states, like Texas, have convicted people to death who did not kill anyone. Accomplices to a murder such a getaway driver have been punished in the same way as the murderer.


Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime any more than long prison sentences. According to a survey of the former and present presidents of the countries top academic institutions that study crime, 88% rejected the notion that capital punishment acts as a deterrent to murder.

In every state that retains the death penalty, jurors have the option of sentencing convicted capital murderers to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Texas has 200% the murder rate of Wisconsin — a state that doesn’t have capital punishment.

Cases without the death penalty cost an average of $740,000 to prosecute. Cases where the death penalty is sought cost an average of $1.26 million to prosecute.

Maintaining each death row prisoner costs taxpayers $90,000 more per year than a prisoner in general population.

The California death penalty system costs taxpayers $114 million per year — beyond the costs of keeping convicts locked up for life. Taxpayers have paid more than $250 million for each of the state’s executions.