Death Penalty

For first time in history, federal government carried out more civilian executions than all 50 states

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Ten federal inmates were executed this year as a result of a push by the Department of Justice, putting the total number of federal executions above that of all 50 states combined.

Five states carried out a combined seven executions in 2020, the lowest since 1983, according to a Dec. 16 press release and a report by the Death Penalty Information Center. The combined 17 executions this year were at the lowest point since 1991.

The New York Times and the Washington Post have coverage.

The federal government resumed executions this year after a 17-year hiatus. It’s the first time in history that the federal government carried out more civilian executions than all the states combined, according to the report.

Three more federal executions are scheduled before President-elect Joe Biden becomes president, according to the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The five states that carried out executions were Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.

The Death Penalty Information Center projected that there will also be a record low of 18 new death sentences in 2020. Death sentences were imposed in seven states: Arizona, California, Florida, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006, the Washington Post pointed out.

The Death Penalty Information Center noted that the low numbers are a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic. But in the first quarter of the year, the nation was already on track for a near-record low number of death sentences and executions in 2020.

Other information in the report:

• Colorado became the 22nd state to abolish the death penalty. Two other states, Louisiana and Utah, reached 10 years without carrying out an execution. Now, more than two-thirds of the country have either abolished the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in at least 10 years.

• At least half of the defendants executed were minorities, and 76% of the executions were for the deaths of white victims.

• Every inmate executed this year was age 21 or younger at the time of the offense or had evidence of at least one of these impairments: mental illness; brain injury; intellectual disability; and serious childhood trauma, neglect or abuse.

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