The Death Penalty in 2012: Year End Report

Posted on Dec 18, 2012



Key Southern States Had No Death Sentences or No Executions, According to New Report

Number of Death Penalty States Drops with Connecticut’s Repeal

(Washington, D.C.) Only nine states carried out executions this year, equaling the fewest number of states to do so in 20 years, according to a new report released today by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). More than half of the states (29) either have no death penalty or have not carried out an execution in five years. The number of executions in 2012 (43) was 56 percent less than the peak in 1999 and equal to last year’s total.

The number of new death sentences in 2012 was the second lowest since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Seventy-eight people were sentenced to death in 2012, representing a 75 percent decline since 1996 when there were 315 sentences.

Many death penalty states with histories of high use had no new death sentences or no executions in 2012. North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia (which is second to Texas in total executions since 1976) had no death sentences and no executions. No executions were carried out in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, or Missouri.

“Capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country,” said Richard Dieter, DPIC’s Executive Director and the author of the report. “In 2012, fewer states have the death penalty, fewer carried out executions, and death sentences and executions were clustered in a small number of states. It is very likely that more states will take up the question of death penalty repeal in the years ahead.”

Just four states (Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Arizona) were responsible for over three-quarters of executions nationwide. Death sentences were also primarily imposed in a few areas, with four states (Florida, California, Texas, and Alabama) accounting for two-thirds (65 percent) of the nation’s death sentences.

The number of states with the death penalty declined this year as Connecticut joined 16 other states that have repealed the death penalty. Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011. Five states in five years have abandoned capital punishment; the other three were New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico.

California came close to repealing the death penalty by a ballot measure in November. Almost six million voters – 48 percent of the electorate – supported repeal of capital punishment in the state, which has not carried out an execution in almost seven years. This was a significantly higher percentage than the 29 percent of the public who voted against expanding the death penalty in 1978.


Download infographics related to the Year End Report.


Click here for a full media coverage report on DPIC’s 2012 Year End Report.


See data on 2012 Sentencing by state, county, and race of defendant.