Sentencing Data

Recent Death Sentences by Name, Race, County, and Year

2020 Death Sentences by Name, Race, County, and Year

Driven by the combined effects of a global pandemic and the continuing decline in public support for capital punishment, new death sentences reached historic lows in 2020. Fewer new death sentences were imposed in the United States in 2020 than in any other year since the Supreme Court struck down all existing capital punishments statutes in the U.S. in 1972. With counties unable to safely conduct capital trials, states imposed a record low 18 new death sentences, 42% below the previous record low of 31 set in 2016.

Most of these sentences (11) were imposed in the first three months of 2020, before courts across the country halted trials as a precaution against the pandemic. Nearly all the death sentences imposed after that time involved judge-only proceedings, consisting of court decisions formally accepting pre-pandemic jury sentencing recommendations or trials in which a defendant waived the right to a jury.

Only seven states – Alabama, California, Florida, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas – imposed new death sentences this year, and just three – California, Florida, and Texas – imposed more than one.

Only two counties in the United States – Riverside, California (3 sentences) and Lafayette, Florida (2 sentences) – imposed more than one death sentence, and the Lafayette death sentences were the product of a single trial in which both defendants pled guilty, waived a sentencing jury, represented themselves, and presented no case for life. This was the third time in the last five years that Riverside County led the nation in death sentences. The fifteen counties that imposed death sentences represent less than half of one percent of all U.S. counties.



Defendants Sentenced to Death in 2020

First NameMiddle NameLast NameStateCountyDate Sentence Formally ImposedRace DefendantNumber / Race of Victim(s)Age at CrimeNon-Unanimous / Judge Sentencing
EdwardLittletonMcCauleyAZMaricopa1/9/20White1 White Female58
Israel Ramirez Guardado CA Riverside 1/24/20 Latinx 1 Latina Female 37
VincentJamesMarplesCARiverside6/26/20White1 White Female34
JessePerezTorresCARiverside12/4/20Latinx1 Latina Female34
Charles Merritt CA San Bernardino 1/21/20 White 3 White Males, 1 White Female 53
Hernan Rodriguez CA Tulare 6/26/20 Latinx 2 Latino Males 24
GranvilleRitchieFLHillsborough9/11/20Black1 Black Female35
JesseBellFLLafayette3/13/20White1 White Male451-judge sentencing
BarryNoetzelFLLafayette3/13/20White1 White Male451-judge sentencing
MarkSieversFLLee1/3/20White1 White Female47
MarlinJosephFLPalm Beach11/19/20Black2 Black Females26
Michael Gordon FL Polk 2/7/20 Black 2 White Females 34
ThomasFletcherFLSanta Rosa11/24/20White1 White Male50
Willie Cory Godbolt MS Lincoln 2/27/20 Black 1 White Male, 2 Black Males, 1 Black Female 35
JoelDrainOHWarren5/18/20White1 White Male373-judge sentencing
ByronShepardOKPottawatomie1/3/20White1 White Male36
Brandon McCall TX Collin 2/27/20 White 1 White Male 26
Lucky Ward TX Harris 3/10/20 Black 1 Latino Female, 1 Black Female 44

2020 Death Sentences by Race of Defendant and Victim

RaceNumber of Defendants Sentenced to Death
White 10
Black

5

Latinx

3

Total

18

RaceNumber of Victims
White

11

Latinx

3

Black

2

Multiple Races (Including White)1
Multiple Races (Not Including White)1




2020 Death Sentences by County

CountyNumber of Death Sentences
Riverside, CA 3
Lafayette, FL 2
Collin, TX 1
Harris, TX 1
Hillsborough, FL 1
Lee, FL 1
Lincoln, MS 1
Maricopa, AZ 1
Palm Beach, FL 1
Polk, FL 1
Pottawatomie, OK 1
San Bernardino, CA 1
Santa Rosa, FL 1
Tulare, CA 1
Warren, OH 1

2020 Death Sentences by State

StateDeath Sentences in 2020
Florida 7

California

5

Texas

2

Arizona

1

Mississippi

1

Ohio

1

Oklahoma

1