NEW RESOURCE: Justice Department Releases "Capital Punishment, 2004" Report

The Bureau of Justice Statistics released its latest report on the status of the death penalty in the U.S., Capital Punishment, 2004, on November 13.  According to the report, the nation's death row population, executions, and the number of people given death sentences last year all declined. There were 3,315 people on state and federal death rows at the conclusion of 2004, 63 fewer than in 2003. Last year, 125 people were sentenced to death, the fewest since 1973. Twelve states executed 59 prisoners in 2004, six fewer than in 2003.

ACLU Report Finds Flaws in Alabama's Death Penalty

According to a new report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), structural and procedural flaws in Alabama’s criminal justice system stack the deck against fair trials and appropriate sentencing for those facing the death penalty. The report, Broken Justice: The Death Penalty in Alabama, details unfair and discriminatory practices in the state’s administration of the death penalty.

DETERRENCE: U.S. Murder Rate Declined in 2004, Even As Death Penalty Use Dropped

Even as the use of the death penalty continued to decline in the United States, the number of murders and the national murder rate dropped in 2004. According to the recently released FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2004, the nation's murder rate fell by 3.3%, declining to 5.5 murders per 100,000 people in 2004. By region, the Northeast, which accounts for less than 1% of all U.S. executions, continued to have the nation's lowest murder rate, 4.2. The Midwest had a murder rate of 4.7, and the murder rate in the West was 5.7. The South, which has carried out more than 80% of all U.S.

Race and the Death Penalty in California


A recent study to be published in the Santa Clara Law Review found that the race of the victim in the underlying murder greatly affected whether a defendant would be sentenced to death.

Generally, there are more Hispanic and African American victims of murder in California:

--California Murder Victims 1990-1999 - Office of Vital Statistics;

Research Links Historical Lynchings to Modern Murder Rates and Capital Punishment

Recent research has revealed a close correlation between the U.S. states that historically carried out the most lynchings and the states that today have the highest homicide rates and most death sentences.  In a study led by sociologist Steven Messner of the State University of New York at Albany, county data from 10 southern states where historically reliable information on vigilante lynchings between 1882 and 1930 is available were examined (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee).

Study Finds Race of Victim, Geography Are Key Factors In California Death Sentencing

According to a new study to be published in the Santa Clara Law Review, a defandant in California is more likely to be sentenced to death for killing a white person than for murdering a person of any other race, despite there being more black and Hispanic murder victims in the state. The research also shows that geography plays a key role in whether the death penalty will be sought in a particular case.

STUDIES: Blacks Struck from Juries at Twice the Rate of Whites

A two-year Dallas Morning News investigation of jury selection in Dallas County has revealed that prosecutors exclude blacks from juries at more than twice the rate they reject whites, and that race is the most important personal trait affecting which jurors prosecutors reject. The paper's review also found that when potential black and white jurors answered key questions about criminal justice issues the same way, blacks were rejected at a higher rate.

UN Report Shows Declining Use of the Death Penalty Worldwide

UN Report Shows Declining Use of the Death Penalty Worldwide

A report from the Secretary-General to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations on the status of the death penalty worldwide shows a declining use of capital punishment: