This report includes data on persons under sentence of death, persons executed, and the status of the death penalty at the state and federal level. Data on prisoners under sentence of death were obtained from the department of corrections in each jurisdiction that authorized the death penalty on December 31, 2016. Information on the status of death penalty statutes was obtained from the office of the Attorney General in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government.
At year-end 2016, 34 states and the federal government authorized the death penalty. Two of these states (New York and Wyoming) did not have any prisoners under sentence of death at year end. Each jurisdiction determines the offenses for which the death penalty can be imposed (appendix tables 1 and 2). Once a person has been convicted of a capital offense, a separate sentencing hearing is held. During the sentencing hearing, a jury will consider aggravating and mitigating factors as defined by state law. Before a person can be sentenced to death, a jury must find that at least one aggravating factor is present and that mitigating factors don’t outweigh the aggravating factor(s).
- At year-end 2016, a total of 32 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) held 2,814 prisoners under sentence of death, which was 58 (2%) fewer than at year-end 2015.
- California (26%), Florida (14%), and Texas (9%) held nearly half (49%) of the nation’s prisoners under sentence of death at year-end 2016; in 2016, Texas executed seven prisoners, Florida executed one, and California did not execute any prisoners.
- In 2016, the number of prisoners under sentence of death decreased for the sixteenth consecutive year.
- Twelve states received a total of 32 prisoners under sentence of death in 2016.
- Five states executed a total of 20 prisoners in 2016, with Georgia (9) and Texas (7) accounting for 80% of executions.
- The number of prisoners executed in 2016 represented the smallest number of executions since 1991, when 14 prisoners were executed.
- Of the 20 prisoners executed, 18 were white (2 of Hispanic origin) and 2 were black.
- Seventeen states and the BOP removed 70 prisoners from under sentence of death by means other than execution.
- At year-end 2016, 13 states and the BOP held fewer prisoners under sentence of death than a year earlier, 4 states held more prisoners, and 16 states held the same number.
- The largest decline in prisoners under sentence of death occurred in Georgia (down 10 prisoners), followed by Louisiana (down 9) and Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas (down 7 each).
- The largest increase in the number of prisoners under sentence of death occurred in North Carolina and California (up 3 each), followed by Ohio (up 2), and Nevada (up 1).
- Among prisoners under sentence of death at year-end 2016, a total of 55% were white and 42% were black.
- At year-end 2016, among the 2,553 prisoners under sentence of death whose ethnic origin was known, a total of 378 prisoners (15%) were Hispanic.
- Ninety-eight percent of prisoners under sentence of death were male.