Attitudes to the U.S. death penalty in figures


WASHINGTON, AFP

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on Monday will become the 716th person executed since the death penalty was reintroduced in the United States in 1976 and the 33rd so far this year. Last year 85 people were put to death, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, compared to 98 executions in 1999.

As of April 1, 2001, 3,711 U.S. prisoners were awaiting execution, among them 3,655 men and 56 women, in the 38 U.S. states that allow capital punishment.

McVeigh is the first prisoner to be put to death by the federal government, as opposed to state governments, since 1963.

Federal execution cases are limited to specific crimes, including certain drugs offenses, murder across state boundaries, espionage, terrorism and attacks against federal agents. Twenty convicts are on death row awaiting execution by federal authorities.

Blacks, who comprise 12 percent of the U.S. population, make up 43 percent of death row inmates, while whites make up 46 percent and hispanics nine percent. Two percent are of Asian origin.

Since 1976, 17 people have been executed for crimes committed as minors and 35 executions involved convicts described as mentally retarded.

The most common method of execution since 1976 has been lethal injection, used in 551 cases, while the electric chair was used in 149, the gas chamber in 11, hanging three times and firing squads twice.

A total of 95 convicts have been freed after proving their innocence after spending an average eight years on death row.

One state, Illinois, imposed a moratorium on executions in January 2000 after 13 death row inmates were proved innocent in 23 years. Sixteen other states are now examining the use of capital punishment. According to a recent CNN-Gallup-USA Today poll, 67 percent of Americans favor the death penalty while 25 percent are opposed. Five years ago those in favor numbered 77 percent.