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

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

Posted on Mar 23, 2017

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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.

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Date

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

05/13/97

Anthony Westley

36

m

Black

1 White Male(s)

TX

Harris

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

No

05/16/97

Clifton Belyeu

38

m

White

1 White Female(s)

TX

McLennan

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

No

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

05/20/97

Clarence Lackey

42

m

White

1 White Female(s)

TX

Tom Green

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

No

05/21/97

Bruce Callins

37

m

Black

1 White Male(s)

TX

Tarrant

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

No

05/22/97

Larry White

47

m

White

1 White Female(s)

TX

Harris

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

No

05/28/97

Robert Madden

34

m

White

2 White Male(s)

TX

Leon

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

No

06/02/97

Patrick Rogers

33

m

Black

1 White Male(s)

TX

Collin

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

No

06/03/97

Kenneth Harris

34

m

Black

1 White Female(s)

TX

Harris

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

No

06/04/97

Dorsie Johnson

30

m

Black

1 White Male(s)

TX

Scurry

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

No

06/04/97

Davis Losada

32

m

Latino

1 Latino Female(s)

TX

Cameron

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

No

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

06/16/97

David Stoker

38

m

White

1 White Male(s)

TX

Hale

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

No

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

06/18/97

Irineo Montoya

30

m

Latino

1 White Male(s)

TX

Cameron

S

Lethal Injection

No

No

No

Yes

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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.

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Nine (9) Executions

Date Range: December 4, 2002 to December 13, 2002

Date

Number
Since 1976

State

Name

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

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Eight (8) Executions

Date Range: April 28, 1999 to May 7, 1999

Date

Number
Since 1976

State

Name

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

Date Range: December 6, 2002 to December 15, 2002

Date

Number
Since 1976

State

Name

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

Date Range: December 9, 2002 to December 18, 2002

Date

Number
Since 1976

State

Name

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

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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.

Date Range: May 13, 1997 to May 22, 1997

Date

Number
Since 1976

State

Name

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


Date Range: January 18, 2000 to January 27, 2000

Date

Number
Since 1976

State

Name

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)


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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:

Date Range: May 16, 1997 to May 23, 1997

Date

Number
Since 1976

State

Name

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

Date Range: May 28, 1997 to June 4, 1997

Date

Number
Since 1976

State

Name

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

Date Range: January 18, 2000 to January 25, 2000

Date

Number
Since 1976

State

Name

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

Date Range: January 20, 2000 to January 27, 2000

Date

Number
Since 1976

State

Name

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 here.