DPIC Analysis: What is the Most Executions Conducted in the U.S. in the Shortest Time Span?

Top row, from left to right: Bruce Ward, Marcel Williams, Jason McGehee, and Kenneth Williams. Botton row, Stacey Johnson, Ledell Lee, Don Davis, and Jack Jones. Photos by Arkansas Department of Corrections.

On February 27, 2017, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed orders for an unprecedented eight executions to be carried out over a period of eleven days in April. The scheduled dates for the four sets of double executions are: April 17, Bruce Ward and Don Davis; April 20, Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee; April 24, Jack Jones and Marcel Williams; and April 27, Kenneth Williams and Jason McGehee. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge had asked that the dates be set after the U.S. Supreme Court on February 21 declined to review a state court decision upholding Arkansas' lethal injection protocol.

After Governor Hutchinson issued the execution orders, we received a flurry of press inquiries asking whether any state had carried out so many executions in such a short time span. 

We looked into this and found that, since states resumed executions in the 1970s, no state has ever executed eight prisoners in eleven days. Only one state—Texas—has ever executed 8 prisoners in a calendar month. That has occurred only twice (in back to back months), when Texas conducted eight executions in both May and June of 1997.

Scheduling two or more executions on the same day is also unusual. It has happened just ten times in the past forty years, all between 1994 and 2000. The last time it occurred was when Texas executed Brian Roberson and Oliver Cruz on August 9, 2000.

Only four states have carried out multiple executions on the same day: Arkansas (4 times), Texas (3 times), Illinois (twice), and South Carolina (once). Arkansas is the only state to have conducted triple executions, which it has done twice—on August 3, 1994 and January 8, 1997. No state has carried out more than one double execution in the same week. The shortest time span between multiple executions in any state is 84 days: Arkansas executed Edward Pickens and Jonas Whitmore on May 11, 1994 and co-defendants James Holmes, Darryl Richley, and Hoyt Clines on August 3 of that year.

The hurried schedule in Arkansas appears to be an attempt to use the state's extant supply of eight doses of midazolam, which are to expire at the end of April 2017. At the time the execution schedule was announced, Arkansas did not have a supply of potassium chloride, the killing drug specified in its execution protocol, but has subsequently announced that it has obtain sufficient supplies of that drug to carry out the scheduled executions.

Here are the dates on which states have conducted multiple executions:

TRIPLE EXECUTIONS

  • Arkansas, August 3, 1994:  James Holmes, Darryl Richley, and Hoyt Clines*
  • Arkansas, January 8, 1997:  Paul Ruiz, Earl Van Denton, and Kirt Wainwright

DOUBLE EXECUTIONS

  • Texas, January 31, 1995:  Clifton Russell and Willie Williams
  • Texas, June 4, 1997:  Davis Losada and Dorsie Johnson-Bey
  • Texas, August 9, 2000:  Brian Roberson and Oliver Cruz
  • Arkansas, May 11, 1994:  Edward Pickens and Jonas Whitmore
  • Arkansas, September 8, 1999:  Allen Willett and Mark Gardner
  • Illinois, March 22, 1995:  Hernando Williams and James Free
  • Illinois, November 19, 1997:  Walter Stewart and Durlyn Eddmonds
  • South Carolina, December 4, 1998:  J.D. Gleaton and Larry Gilbert*

* Co-defendants

No state has successfully executed two prisoners on the same day using midazolam. Oklahoma attempted to do so on April 29, 2014, but called off the second execution after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett earlier that night. The eight prisoners scheduled for execution make up 23% of Arkansas' current death row.

Here are the two calendar months in which Texas executed 8 prisoners.

Datesort descending Name Age Sex Race Number, Race, and Sex of Victims State County Region Method Juvenile Federal Volunteer Foreign National  
05/06/97 Terry Washington 33 m Black 1 White Female(s) TX Walker S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
05/13/97 Anthony Westley 36 m Black 1 White Male(s) TX Harris S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
05/16/97 Clifton Belyeu 38 m White 1 White Female(s) TX McLennan S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
05/19/97 Richard Drinkard 39 m White 1 White Male(s)
2 White Female(s)
TX Harris S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
05/20/97 Clarence Lackey 42 m White 1 White Female(s) TX Tom Green S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
05/21/97 Bruce Callins 37 m Black 1 White Male(s) TX Tarrant S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
05/22/97 Larry White 47 m White 1 White Female(s) TX Harris S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
05/28/97 Robert Madden 34 m White 2 White Male(s) TX Leon S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
06/02/97 Patrick Rogers 33 m Black 1 White Male(s) TX Collin S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
06/03/97 Kenneth Harris 34 m Black 1 White Female(s) TX Harris S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
06/04/97 Dorsie Johnson 30 m Black 1 White Male(s) TX Scurry S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
06/04/97 Davis Losada 32 m Latino 1 Latino Female(s) TX Cameron S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
06/11/97 Earl Behringer 33 m White 1 White Male(s)
1 White Female(s)
TX Tarrant S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
06/16/97 David Stoker 38 m White 1 White Male(s) TX Hale S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
06/17/97 Eddie Johnson 44 m Black 1 White Male(s)
2 White Female(s)
TX Aransas S Lethal Injection No No No No edit
06/18/97 Irineo Montoya 30 m Latino 1 White Male(s) TX Cameron S Lethal Injection No No No Yes edit

To determine the most executions in any 11-day period in the modern era of the United States’ death penalty, we wrote a custom program to search our execution database. The answer? From December 4-12, 2002, 6 states conducted a combined total of 9 executions in 9 days.

The shortest time span in which 8 executions were carried out occurred during part of that same 9-day span. In the 7 days from Dec. 6-12, 2002, 6 states conducted a combined 8 executions. Then, from April 28-May 5, 1999, 5 states executed a total of 8 prisoners in 8 days. In another overlapping 9-day span, 6 states carried out a combined total of 8 executions from Dec. 9-17, 2002.

Here are the search results.

Number of Executions Date Range Date Number
Since 1976
State Name
8 Apr. 28, 1999
to
May 7, 1999
Apr. 28, 1999 537 MO Ralph Davis
Apr. 28, 1999 538 TX Aaron Foust
Apr. 28, 1999 539 VA Eric Payne
Apr. 29, 1999 540 VA Ronald Yeatts
May 4, 1999 541 CA Manuel Babbitt
May 4, 1999 542 TX Jose De La Cruz
May 5, 1999 543 AZ Robert Vickers
May 5, 1999 544 TX Clydell Coleman
9 Dec. 4, 2002
to
Dec. 13, 2002
Dec. 4, 2002 811 TX Leonard Rojas
Dec. 6, 2002 812 NC Ernest Basden
Dec. 9, 2002 813 FL Linroy Bottoson
Dec. 10, 2002 814 NC Desmond Carter
Dec. 10, 2002 815 OK Jerry McCracken
Dec. 11, 2002 816 TX James Collier
Dec. 11, 2002 817 MS Jessie Williams
Dec. 12, 2002 818 AL Anthony Johnson
Dec. 12, 2002 819 OK Jay Neill
8 Dec. 6, 2002
to
Dec. 15, 2002
Dec. 6, 2002 812 NC Ernest Basden
Dec. 9, 2002 813 FL Linroy Bottoson
Dec. 10, 2002 814 NC Desmond Carter
Dec. 10, 2002 815 OK Jerry McCracken
Dec. 11, 2002 816 TX James Collier
Dec. 11, 2002 817 MS Jessie Williams
Dec. 12, 2002 818 AL Anthony Johnson
Dec. 12, 2002 819 OK Jay Neill
8 Dec. 9, 2002
to
Dec. 18, 2002
Dec. 9, 2002 813 FL Linroy Bottoson
Dec. 10, 2002 814 NC Desmond Carter
Dec. 10, 2002 815 OK Jerry McCracken
Dec. 11, 2002 816 TX James Collier
Dec. 11, 2002 817 MS Jessie Williams
Dec. 12, 2002 818 AL Anthony Johnson
Dec. 12, 2002 819 OK Jay Neill
Dec. 17, 2002 820 OK Ernest Carter

We also checked to see the most number of prisoners a single state had executed over any 11-day period in the modern era. The answer is 6. Texas executed 6 prisoners in 10 days twice, once in the 10 days from May 13-22, 1997 and a second time in the 10 days from January 18-27, 2000.

Number of Executions Date Range Date Number
Since 1976
State Name
6 May 13, 1997
to
May 22, 1997
May 13, 1997 380 TX Anthony Westley
May 16, 1997 382 TX Clifton Belyeu
May 19, 1997 383 TX Richard Drinkard
May 20, 1997 384 TX Clarence Lackey
May 21, 1997 385 TX Bruce Callins
May 22, 1997 386 TX Larry White
6 Jan. 18, 2000
to
Jan. 27, 2000
Jan. 18, 2000 605 TX Spencer Goodman
Jan. 20, 2000 606 TX David Hicks
Jan. 21, 2000 607 TX Larry Robison
Jan. 24, 2000 608 TX Billy Hughes
Jan. 25, 2000 609 TX Glenn McGinnis
Jan. 27, 2000 610 TX James Moreland

—Robert Dunham, Executive Director
   (Updated March 23, 2017)


UPDATE:

On April 17, 2017, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted stays of execution to Bruce Ward and Don Davis, both of whom were scheduled to be executed that day. The court had previously issued Ward a stay on other grounds. In addition, the federal district court had granted a separate stay of execution to Jason McGehee, who had been scheduled to be executed on April 27.

We searched the DPIC execution database to see whether any state had carried out as many as five executions in as little as eight days. Here is what we found:

Number of Executions Date Range Date Number
Since 1976
State Name
5 May 16, 1997
to
May 23, 1997
May 16, 1997 382 Texas Clifton Belyeu
May 19, 1997 383 Texas Richard Drinkard
May 20, 1997 384 Texas Clarence Lackey
May 21, 1997 385 Texas Bruce Callins
May 22, 1997 386 Texas Larry White
5 May 28, 1997
to
June 4, 1997
May 28, 1997 387 Texas Robert Madden
June 2, 1997 388 Texas Patrick Rogers
June 3, 1997 389 Texas Kenneth Harris
June 4, 1997 390 Texas Dorsie Johnson
June 4, 1997 391 Texas Davis Losada
5 Jan. 18, 2000
to
Jan. 25, 2000
Jan. 18, 2000 605 Texas Spencer Goodman
Jan. 20, 2000 606 Texas David Hicks
Jan. 21, 2000 607 Texas Larry Robison
Jan. 24, 2000 608 Texas Billy Hughes
Jan. 25, 2000 609 Texas Glenn McGinnis
5 Jan. 20, 2000
to
Jan. 27, 2000
Jan. 20, 2000 606 Texas David Hicks
Jan. 21, 2000 607 Texas Larry Robison
Jan. 24, 2000 608 Texas Billy Hughes
Jan. 25, 2000 609 Texas Glenn McGinnis
Jan. 27, 2000 610 Texas James Moreland

In the modern history of the U.S. death penalty, no state has executed more than five prisoners in an eight-day time span. Texas is the only state to have done so—in May and June of 1997 and in two overlapping eight-day periods in January 2000. Arkansas executions would tie the state for the most executions in an eight-day-period.

Computer analysis by Dane Lindberg
(Updated April 18, 2017)


The DPIC execution database is available to the public at /views-executions.