Sentencing Data

2021 Death Sentences by Name, Race, and County

Eighteen new death sentences were imposed across the United States in 2021, matching 2020’s total as the fewest in any year since the Supreme Court struck down all existing death-penalty statutes in 1972.

Seven states imposed death sentences in 2021. Oklahoma and Alabama each handed down four new sentences; California and Texas each imposed three. Florida imposed two; and Nebraska and Tennessee imposed one death sentence each. Alabama’s disproportionately high number of death sentences was skewed by its outlier sentencing practices. No Alabama jury unanimously voted for death, but Alabama — alone among the states —permits judges to impose the death penalty based upon a non-unanimous jury recommendation. Three death sentences were imposed following non-unanimous jury votes. In the fourth case, the defendant waived his right to a sentencing jury.

Only two U.S. counties — Los Angeles County, California and Oklahoma County, Oklahoma — were responsible for more than a single death sentence. The two sentences imposed in Los Angeles both resulted from jury verdicts handed down before the county elected reform prosecutor George Gascón, who has pledged not to seek the death penalty. The final judicial sentencings in those cases had been delayed by the pandemic. One death sentence in Florida also was the result of pandemic-delayed court proceedings, after a jury recommended a death sentence in 2019.

Notably, there were no death sentences in many formerly heavy-use death-penalty counties, including Harris County, Texas; Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania; and Duval County, Florida. The election of reform prosecutors in those and other counties across the country has contributed significantly to the continuing low number of new death sentences.

The majority (61.1%) of people sentenced to death in 2021 were either Black or Latinx. No white defendant was sentenced to death in trial proceedings that did not involve any white victim. Alabama, Texas, and Oklahoma collectively accounted for 61.1% of the year’s new death sentences.

Defendants Sentenced to Death in 2021

First NameMiddle NameLast NameStateDate Sentence Formally ImposedCountyRace of DefendantNumber/Race of Victim(s)Age at CrimeNon-Unanimous / Judge Sentencing
Donnie Abernathy AL 11/29/21 Cherokee White 3 White Females 38 Jury waived / 1-judge sentence
Christopher Henderson AL 10/13/21 Madison White 2 White Female; 2 White Males 40 11-1 jury / 1-judge sentence
Michael Anthony Powell AL 5/24/21 Shelby Black 1 White Female 43 11-1 jury / 1-judge sentence
Michael Dale Iervolino AL 11/30/21 St. Clair County Latinx 1 White Male 32 10-2 jury / 1-judge sentence
Douglas Jade Harris CA 7/1/21 Los Angeles Black 1 Latino Male, 2 Latina Females 30
Michael Gargiulo CA 7/16/21 Los Angeles White 1 White Female, 1 Latina Female 25
Adrian Ortiz CA 2/26/21 Tulare Latinx 1 Latino Male 19
Billy Wells FL 5/25/21 Bradford White 1 White Male 43
Reynald Figueroa Sanabrina FL 7/2/21 Pinellas Latinx 1 White Female, 1 White Male 41
Aubrey Trail NE 6/9/21 Saline White 1 White Female 51 3-judge panel
Joseph Fidel Alliniece OK 7/27/21 Cleveland Black 1 White Female 29
Daniel Vasquez OK 11/5/21 McClain Latinx 1 Black female 33
Derrick Laday OK 7/7/21 Oklahoma Black 1 Black Male 22
William Reece OK 8/19/21 Oklahoma White 1 White Female 38
Steven Wiggins TN 8/12/21 Dickson White 1 White Male 31
Otis McKane TX 8/6/21 Bexar Black 1 White Male 31
Tyrone Jamaal Williams TX 11/19/21 Hunt Black 2 White Females 30
William George Davis TX 10/27/21 Smith White 4 White Males 34

2021 Death Sentences by Race of Defendant and Victim

RaceNumber of Defendants Sentenced to Death
White 8
Black 6
Latinx 4
Total 18
Race of Victim(s)Number of Cases
White 13
Latinx 2
Black 2
Multiple Races (Including White) 1

2021 Death Sentences by County

CountyNumber of Death Sentences
Los Angeles, CA 2
Oklahoma, OK 2
Bexar, TX 1
Bradford, FL 1
Cherokee, AL 1
Cleveland, OK 1
Dickson, TN 1
Hunt, TX 1
Madison, AL 1
McClain, OK 1
Pinellas, FL 1
Saline, NE 1
Shelby, AL 1
Smith , TX 1
St. Clair County, AL 1
Tulare, CA 1

2021 Death Sentences by State

StateDeath Sentences in 2021
Alabama 4
Oklahoma 4
California 3
Texas 3
Florida 2
Nebraska 1
Tennessee 1