In 1972 the US Supreme Court rules in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty as implemented by the State of Georgia where the jury has complete discretion to decide death or life in prison is unconstitutional. The result being that all death penalty statutes in all states were struck down. This removed 629 inmates from death rows throughout the country.
The US Supreme Court rules in 1976 through two cases, Gregg v. George and Jurek v. Texas that a death sentence is not a per se violation of the 8th Amendment.
In 1977 Gary Gilmore becomes the first person executed in the United States in ten years. Gary Gilmore is executed in Utah by a firing squad.
In 1977 the Supreme Court rules in Coker v. Georgia that a death sentence for the crime of rape where death does not result is disproportionate and violates the Eighth Amendments prohibition against 'cruel and unusual punishments.'
In 1979 John Spenkelink is the second person executed in twelve years. Florida executes him in the electric chair.
1982 Texas executes Charles Brooks by lethal injection. This is the first execution by lethal injection.
1984 In North Carolina, Velma Barfield becomes the first woman to be executed in the United States since the reinstatement of the death penalty.
1985 the US Supreme Court rules in Ford v. Wainright that it is unconstitutional to execute the insane.
1987 the Supreme Court rules in Thompson v. Oklahoma that a death sentence may not be imposed on someone for a murder committed when they are 15 years old.
1989 the US Supreme Court rules in Stanford v. Kentucky that the Constitution does not prohibit the execution of 16 year olds who are convicted of murder and are sentenced to death.
1989 the US Supreme Court rules in Penry v. Lynaugh that executing mentally retarded people does not violate the Eighth Amendment.
1993 Westley Dodd becomes the first person in decades to be executed by hanging. He is hanged by the state of Washington.
1997 Timothy McVeigh becomes the 13th inmate on the federal death row.
1998 Karla Faye Tucker is executed by the state of Texas.
1999 sees the completion of the new lethal injection chamber at the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. All of the federal death row prisoners are moved there.
2000 Frank Lee Smith who spent 14 years on death row in Florida and who died there of cancer is posthumously cleared by DNA evidence.
2000, Illinois Governor George Ryan declares a moratorium on implementing the death penalty after a series of events and publicity shows severe problems in the process.
2001 in June of that year Timothy McVeigh becomes the first federal prisoner to be executed since 1963.
2001 Georgia's Supreme Court rules that electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment. Georgia switches over to lethal injection.
2002 April, Ray Krone is released from Arizona prison after DNA proves his innocence. He had been sentenced to death in 1992
2002 May, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening imposes a moratorium on executions.
June 2002 the US Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia rules that execution of the mentally retarded is cruel and unusual punishment. This reverses the Penry v. Lynaugh decision of 1989
2002 October, serial killer Aileen Wuornos is executed by the state of Florida.
2003, January, Governor George Ryan commutes all 167 condemned men on Illinois death row.
Death by Electrocution Described
As you can tell from the pictures, the head is shaved and the person is completely restrained. The mouth is covered by a thick leather strap to muffle the screams and another thinner leather strap is placed under the chin to hold the head up. A hood is placed over the head so that the unpleasant view of a person in his death agony is not seen by the witnesses or executioners. Death is not instantaneous.
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice William Brennan (He served on the Supreme Court from March 19, 1957 to July 20, 1990 )once offered the following description of an execution by electric chair:...the prisoner's eyeballs sometimes pop out and rest on [his] cheeks. The prisoner often defecates, urinates, and vomits blood and drool. The body turns bright red as its temperature rises, and the prisoner's fleshs wells and his skin stretches to the point of breaking. Sometimes the prisoner catches fire....Witnesses hear a loud and sustained sound like bacon frying, and the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh permeates the chamber. (Ecenbarger, 1994)
W. Ecenbarger, "Perfecting Death: When the state kills it must do so humanely. Is that possible?," The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, January 23, 1994.
Death Schedule in Texas for 2003
In the state of Texas there are 18 convicted people scheduled for execution in 2003. In 2002 Texas executed 33 and has executed 290 since it reinstated it's death penalty in 1982.
Government Death Penalty Statistics
If you are doing your report on the Death Penalty or wish to know more about this issue then I commend you to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Every year in December the statistics for the year are published. The good news is that fewer people are being sentenced to death and the number of executions are staying relatively low. For instance, in the year 2000 there were 85 people executed, a 13 percent drop in the number of people executed from the year before and those by 14 states. In 2001 the number of people executed was down to 65 and those by 15 states plus two by the federal government (Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and drug leader Juan Raul Garza) I 2002 the number as of December 11 is 68. In 2001 the death row population fell from 3,601 in 2000 to 3,581. Plenty of statistics worth pondering.
United States Supreme Court Rules No Death Penalty for Retarded
On June 20, 2002 the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 in the case Atkins v. Virginia, that the imposition of the death penalty for retarded people was cruel and unusual punishment which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. The reason the law has changed from the Penry v. Lynaugh standard is because the standard in this case is judged by prevailing standards of decency. An evolution in the standards of decency has occurred and more states have changed their laws to say that executing mentally retarded people is not permitted. This change in society is now reflected in the decision of the Supreme Court. The opinion can be read at Cornell here.
IMPONDERABLES- AMBROSE HARRIS
Whether you 'believe' in the death penalty or not here is an interesting situation to ponder on. In Trenton, New Jersey one death row inmate, Ambrose Harris killed another death row inmate named Robert 'Mudman' Simon in 1999. Ambrose Harris, 50 years old now, was sentenced to die for a 1992 muderof Lower Makefield artist Kristin Huggins, and killed the Mudman by jumping off a table and crushing his skull. The question that begs to be answered is how do you punish the man who is sentenced to death for killing another death row inmate? He's already on death row and New Jersey hasn't executed a man since 1963. The Death Penalty was reinstated in New Jersey by referendum in 1992. An interesting point to ponder whether you believe in the death penalty or not.I knew this already but some folks don't know- Ambrose Harris was found not guilty of the murder this last June in a Freehold New Jersey courtroom. He was also found not guilty of manslaughter. If you are a student looking to research this then I suggest that you use the library and search for articles in THE RECORD, a Bergen County NJ newspaper. Still, the logical problem remains interesting. If you have death penalty links you think should be here please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Illinois has 'exonerated' more people than it's Executed
Illinois, in response to the publicity surrounding a legal system that has found more people on death row to be not guilty than the number it has executed has decided to 'halt the efforts to put folks to death' while a review is under way. What bad publicity you ask? Well....
The Chicago Tribune has a five part article on the death penalty in Illinois. A stinging indictment of a particularly corrupt and out of control system which you can find here.
The American Civil Liberties Union has a page on their site which follows death penalty news in the United States which you can find here.
If you're looking for a scholarly review of how often the Death Penalty is applied to innocent people you can read one in the Duke Law Journal which is online. Samuel Gross wrote this article and you can find it here.
If you'd like to see a breakdown of how many people have been executed and how many by each state over the years then you should go here.