Executions

Methods of Execution

Lethal injection is the most widely-used method of execution, but states still authorize other methods, including electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad.

Overview

The primary means of execution in the U.S. have been hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber, firing squad, and lethal injection. The Supreme Court has never found a method of execution to be unconstitutional, though some methods have been declared unconstitutional by state courts. The predominance of lethal injection as the preferred means of execution in all states in the modern era may have put off any judgment by the Court regarding older methods.

Because of a resistance by drug manufacturers to provide the drugs typically used in lethal injections, some states now allow the use of alternative methods if lethal injection cannot be performed. Controversies surrounding the method to be used have delayed executions in many states, contributing to an overall decline in the use of the death penalty.

Authorized Methods

NOTE: [Brackets] around a state indicate that the state authorizes the listed method as an alternative method if other methods are found to be unconstitutional or are unavailable/impractical. Click on the state to obtain specific information about the methods authorized.

Method# of executions by method since 1976# of states authorizing methodJurisdictions that Authorize

Lethal Injection

1332

33 states+ and U.S. Military and U.S. Gov’t

+includes 3 states that no longer have an active death penalty

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware,* Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico,** North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington*, Wyoming, U.S. Military, U.S. Government

* Delaware and Washington have declared their capital sentencing procedures unconstitutional and have resentenced all death-row prisoners to life without parole.

**New Mexico abolished the death penalty but the repeal may not apply retroactively, leaving prisoners on death row facing possible execution.

To find the drug protocols used by states, see State-by-State Lethal Injection.

Electrocution

162

9 states (all have lethal injection as primary method).

[Alabama], [Arkansas], Florida, Kentucky, [Mississippi], [Oklahoma], [South Carolina], [Tennessee], Virginia

The supreme courts of Georgia (2001) and Nebraska (2008) have ruled that the use of the electric chair violates their state constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.

Lethal Gas

11

6 states (all have lethal injection as primary method)

[Alabama], Arizona, California, [Mississippi], Missouri, [Oklahoma], [Wyoming]

Hanging

3

3 states (all have lethal injection as primary method)

Delaware, [New Hampshire], Washington

Firing Squad

3

3 states (all have lethal injection as primary method)

[Mississippi], [Oklahoma], [Utah]