Death Penalty in Flux


Executions are on hold in many states as a result of governor-imposed moratoria and concerns surrounding lethal injection drugs and problematic executions. The table below describes the reasons for holds in various states.

See also DPIC's Lethal Injection page; many states have delayed executions because of a shortage of execution drugs.

Click here for Recent Legislative Developments

Statements from Governors Recently Halting Executions


Governor-Imposed Moratorium 
Last execution: 1/17/2006
On March 13, 2019 Governor Gavin Newsom announced a moratorium on executions based on concerns about discrimination, cost, and lack of deterrent value. On the day the moratorium was announced, Gavin Newsom issued an executive order withdrawing California's lethal injection protocol and closed the state's execution chamber. MORATORIUM
Last execution 10/13/1997

On May 22, 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper indefinitely stayed the scheduled execution of Nathan Dunlap, calling for a reconsideration of the entire death penalty.

Since the indefinite stay was not related to facts about Dunlap, it would appear to apply to all future executions.

Earlier in 2013, the legislature had considered a repeal bill, but it was withdrawn.
Jared Polis elected governor in 2018, says he would sign an abolition bill.
Last execution


On Nov. 22, 2011, Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a moratorium on all executions for the remainder of his term. Kitzhaber resignation effective Feb. 18, 2015. The new governor, Kate Brown, will continue moratorium. Gov. Kitzhaber re-elected Nov. 2014. Resigned Feb. 2015. Gov. Kate Brown finished Kitzhaber's term and was re-elected in 2016. MORATORIUM
Last execution 7/6/1999

Governor Tom Wolf announced a reprieve on all executions on Feb. 13, 2015 while the system is studied and until flaws are addressed.

Earlier, in 2014, then-Governor Tom Corbett granted a reprieve halting the execution of Hubert Michael because the state did not have the lethal injection drugs.

On Dec. 21, 2015, the State Supreme Court unanimously upheld the governor's power to issue a broad reprieve of death sentences; stays of execution remain in place.

Legislatively mandated study of the death penalty was completed in June 2018.

Formal Hold by Court Order 
Last execution 1/7/2010
Lethal injection procedure under review State has no current protocol.  FORMAL HOLD: Executions on hold per court order until at least July 2019. 
Last execution 8/11/2006
Lethal injection challenge; executions on hold Sept. 6, 2012 ruling found protocol unconstitutional.
Oct. 6, 2015 ruling found revised drug protocol to be unlawful.
FORMAL HOLD: Court identified 3 problems that may be easily remedied, though no action has been taken. New execution protocol involving 2 drugs released in 2013. In October 2015, state court found proposed use of pentobarbital unlawful because it is not an ultra-fast acting barbiturate. 
Last: 1/15/2015
Following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April 2014, Oklahoma then used incorrect drug in the execution of Charles Warner and was going to use same incorrect drug in the attempted execution of Richard Glossip. The Attorney General ordered grand jury investigation into circumstances surrounding execution problems. 
State announced that it would use nitrogen gas to conduct future executions.


FORMAL HOLD: Executions placed on hold per court order during pending lethal injection litigation. 
No new nitrogen gas protocol has been announced.
De Facto Moratorium Related to Lethal Injection/Method of Execution (no executions currently scheduled) 
Last execution 12/11/2009
Executions on hold in 2011 State lacks execution drug DE FACTO MORATORIUM
Last execution
KY Supreme Court held on Nov. 25, 2009 that new lethal injection protocol had not been properly reviewed under the state's Administrative Procedures Act. All executions on hold while courts review whether new protocol complies with the law.
Last execution 4/26/2006
Executions effectively halted because of lethal injection issue. Litigation stopped Nevada from using Midazolam procured in "bad faith" in executions.  That litigation continues in state court. DE FACTO MORATORIUM
North Carolina
Last execution
Executions effectively halted because of lethal injection issue and questions about applicability of Racial Justice Act. State judge stayed upcoming executions in 2007
DE FACTO MORATORIUM: State judge ruled that Medical Board cannot forbid physician participation. Executions on hold while lethal injection issues are resolved. In 2013, Racial Justice Act was repealed and attempt was made to fix lethal injection issues. Appeals continue.

State passed Restoring Proper Justice Act, imposing secrecy regarding lethal drugs and allowing non-physicians to carry out executions (2015). No dates set.


Last execution 7/18/18

On January 14, 2019, federal magistrate Judge Michael Merz issued an opinion saying that executions under Ohio’s current drug protocol “will almost certainly subject [prisoners] to severe pain and needless suffering.”  He did not judicially stay executions becasue of the lack of a readily available alternative On 2/19/19, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that executions are on hold until a new lethal injection protocol is crafted.  DE FACTO MORATORIUM
South Carolina
Last execution 5/6/2011
State unable to obtain 2 of 3 drugs used in execution protocol Secrecy bill regarding source of lethal drugs defeated in committee (2015) DE FACTO MORATORIUM
Last execution 3/18/2003
Last 4 execution dates stayed because of lethal injection litigation.  Stays granted by federal District Court DE FACTO MORATORIUM


For more information, see DPIC's Lethal Injection and Recent Legislative Activity Web pages. First posted February 6, 2007; updates as required.