Facts & Research

Student Research Center

What is the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC)?

DPIC is a non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment. The Center was founded in 1990 and prepares in-depth reports, issues press releases, conducts briefings for journalists, and serves as a resource to those working on this issue. The Center is widely quoted and consulted by all those concerned with the death penalty.

What is DPIC’s stance on the death penalty?

The Death Penalty Information Center does not have a position on the death penalty in the abstract. We do not address the death penalty as a moral issue. Instead, we try to educate the public about how the death penalty works in practice. We have been critical through our research and reports of various aspects of the death penalty in the United States.

Does DPIC grant interviews?

Although we cannot respond to student requests for opinions and views, we do have a comprehensive collection of factual information on our Web site. If there is specific information you cannot find, please e-mail us.

How do I cite information from DPIC’s Web site in my research?

Unless otherwise noted, the “Death Penalty Information Center” can be considered the author of the information or quote used. In almost all cases, a source and date are given for information on our Web site. If no source is listed, then the information can be attributed to the Death Penalty Information Center. Most charts and graphs were created by DPIC, sometimes using outside information, and can be attributed to DPIC. If you need more information about our staff see Staff and Board of Directors.


Does the death penalty punish the worst of the worst offenders? How are cases chosen for death penalty prosecution? Is someone more likely to get the death penalty because of their race or gender? Does the use of the death penalty vary by county or city?

  • Arbitrariness by DPIC
  • DPIC Podcasts Episode One: Arbitrariness
  • The Death Penalty is Arbitrary and Unfair” by Amnesty International
  • R. Smith, “As arbitrary as ever,” Second Class Justice, October 17, 2010 (DPIC Summary)
  • ABA Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Report, September 2007 (DPIC Summary)
  • American Civil Liberties Union, “Scattered Justice: Geographic Disparities of the Death Penalty,” March 5, 2004
  • J. Blume, T. Eisenberg, and M. Wells, “Explaining Death Row’s Population and Racial Composition,” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1, 165-207, March 2004
  • S. Gross, “Still Unfair, Still Arbitrary - But Do We Care?, Keynote Address,” 26 Ohio N.U. L. Rev. 517 (2000)
  • B. Steiner, “Still Arbitrary: Capital Sentencing in the Post-Furman Era,” 10 Crim. Just. Policy Rev. 85 (1999)
  • M. Burkhead & J. Luginbuhl, “Sources of Bias and Arbitrariness In The Capital Trial,” 50 J. Soc. Issues 103 (1994)


Does execution or life imprisonment cost more? Does it cost more per day to keep a person on death row than in a regular cell?

The Death Penalty Internationally

What other countries allow the death penalty? Why does the European Union prohibit the death penalty? Are people who committed crimes when they were minors executed in any countries?

Death Row

What is death row like? Do death row prisoners ever interact with one another? What is a typical day like for a death row inmate? How many people are on death row in the U.S.?

  • Death Row by DPIC
  • Death Row Fact Sheet from the Florida Department of Corrections
  • Death Row Facts from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
  • D. Mann, “Solitary Men,” The Texas Observer, Nov. 10, 2010 (DPIC Summary)
  • Rev. C. Pickett, “Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain,” St. Martin’s Press, 2002
  • “A Life in the Balance: The Billy Wayne Sinclair Story” (Arcade Publishing 2001)
  • R. Loney, “A Dream of the Tattered Man: Stories From Georgia’s Death Row,” William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001
  • R. Murray “Life on Death Row,” Albert Publishing Co. in association with 1st Books Library, 2003
  • S. Christianson, “Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House” New York University Press, 2000
  • D. Lindorff, “Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” Common Courage Press, 2003
  • N. Williams, “Still Surviving,” Breakout Publishing Co., 2003
  • R. King, “Capital Consequences: Families of the Condemned Tell Their Stories,” Rutgers University Press, 2005


Does the death penalty deter murder? Does it deter murder more than life without parole?


How many people has the United States executed? How are people executed? Does every state execute people in the same way? Are people still hung? Who puts the inmates to death?


When did the death penalty start? How has it changed over the years?

  • History of the Death Penalty by DPIC
  • The History of the Death Penalty: a Guide for Students by DPIC
  • The Espy File: A database of historical executions
  • Video by Rob Stansfield, PhD of Sociology & Anthropology at University of Guelph, depicting the history of abolition of capital punishment in the United States, on a state by state basis, from 1846 to 2012.
  • S. Banner, “The Death Penalty: An American History,” 2002
  • R. Bohm, “Deathquest: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Capital Punishment in the United States,” Anderson Publishing, 1999.
  • H. Bedau, editor, “The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies,” Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • W. Schabas “The Abolition of the Death Penalty in International Law,” Cambridge University Press, second edition, 1997.
  • “Society’s Final Solution: A History and Discussion of the Death Penalty,” L. Randa, editor, University Press of America, 1997.


Are there innocent people on death row? Has the United States executed anyone who was innocent? How might innocent people end up on death row? Have any death row inmates been freed?

  • Innocence and the Death Penalty by DPIC
  • DPIC Podcasts: Episode Five: Innocence
  • Innocence and the Crisis in the American Death Penalty by DPIC
  • Death Penalty: Innocence by the American Civil Liberties Union
  • The Innocence Project at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University
  • D. Grann, “Trial by Fire: Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man?” The New Yorker, Sept. 7, 2009
  • Sister Helen Prejean, “The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions,” Random House, 2005
  • “Wrongly Convicted: Perspectives on Failed Justice” Saundra D. Westervelt and John A. Humphrey, eds., Rutgers University Press, July 2001
  • J. Tucker, “May God Have Mercy: A True Story of Crime and Punishment,” Norton Press, 1997
  • R. Warden and D. Protess, “A Promise of Justice: The Eighteen Year Old Fight to Save Four Innocent Men,” 1998
  • D. Connery, ed.”Convicting the innocent: the story of a murder, a false confession, and the struggle to free a ‘wrong man;’” Brookline Books, Cambridge, MA, 1996
  • R. Parloff, “Triple jeopardy: a story of law at its best - and worst;” Little Brown and Company, New York, 1996
  • A. J. Harris, “Until proven innocent: a true story of murder, honor, and justice;” Avon Books, New York, 1995

Mental Illness

Can you receive the death penalty if you have a mental illness? How does mental illness affect one’s responsibility in criminal conduct? Should such illnesses affect the punishment for a crime?

Intellectual Disability

Intellectual Disability is called “mental retardation” in some older cases and articles. Can you receive the death penalty if you are intellectually disabled? How does or intellectual disability affect one’s responsibility in criminal conduct? Should such disabilities affect the punishment for a crime?


Does the race of the defendant affect the application of the death penalty? Does the race of the crime victims affect the application of the death penalty?


Are lawyers paid more for death penalty cases than other criminal cases? Are there standards that defense lawyers in capital cases have to adhere to? Can poor defendants replace their lawyers?


Are families of victims in favor of or against the death penalty? How do families feel after the murderer of their relative has been executed?


Why are there less women on death row than men? Are women on death row treated differently than men? What kinds of crimes result in the death penalty for women?

Additional DPIC Resources:

High School Curriculum - This award-winning curriculum includes 10-day lesson plans, background information on the death penalty, and also outlines commonly raised pros and cons of the death penalty.

College Curriculum - The college-level curriculum contains teaching cases of individuals who were sentenced to death in the United States. The curriculum provides a detailed narrative account of each individual’s legal case, including resources such as the original reports from the homicide investigation, affidavits, and transcripts of testimony from witnesses.