Methods of Execution

Authorized Methods

Methods by State

Description of Each Method

Botched Executions

Lethal Injection

 


Authorized Methods


 

NOTE: [Brackets] around a state indicate that the state authorizes the listed method as an alternative method if other methods are found to be unconstitutional or are unavailable/impractical. Click on the state to obtain specific information about the methods authorized. 

Method
# of executions by method since 1976
# of states authorizing method
Jurisdictions that Authorize
Lethal Injection 1282

33 states+ and U.S. Military and U.S. Gov't

+includes 2 states that no longer have an active death penalty

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware,* Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, LouisianaMississippi, Missouri, Montana, NebraskaNevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico,** North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, U.S. Military, U.S. Government

*Delaware declared its capital sentencing procedures unconstitutional and is resentencing all death-row prisoners to life without parole. While it technically has a method of execution, it has no one who is subject to execution and no mechanism for capitally prosecuting or capitally sentencing any defendant.

**New Mexico abolished the death penalty but the repeal may not apply retroactively, leaving prisoners on death row facing possible execution.

To find the drug protocols used by states, see State-by-State Lethal Injection.

Electrocution 158 9 states (all have lethal injection as primary method).

[Alabama],[Arkansas], Florida, Kentucky, [Mississippi], [Oklahoma], [South Carolina], [Tennessee], Virginia

The supreme courts of Georgia (2001) and Nebraska (2008) have ruled that the use of the electric chair violates their state constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.

Gas Chamber 11 6 states (all have lethal injection as primary method)

Arizona, California, [Mississippi], Missouri, [Oklahoma][Wyoming]

Hanging 3 3 states (all have lethal injection as primary method)

Delaware, [New Hampshire], Washington

 

Firing Squad 3 3 states (all have lethal injection as primary method)

[Mississippi], [Oklahoma], [Utah]

 

 


Authorized Methods by State


Alabama Effective 7/1/02, lethal injection will be administered unless the prisoner affirmatively chooses electrocution "in writing and delivered to the warden of the correctional facility within 30 days after the certificate of judgment pursuant to a decision by the Alabama Supreme Court affirming the sentence of death." If lethal injection or electrocution is found to be unconstitutional, then any constitutional method will be administered. (Ala. Code § 15-18-82.1)
Arizona Authorizes lethal injection for persons sentenced after 11/15/92; those sentenced before that date may select lethal injection or lethal gas. If a person does not choose, lethal injection will be used. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-757)
Arkansas Lethal injection is the method unless it is "invalidated by a final and unappealable court order" and then the execution shall be electrocution. (Ark. Code Ann. § 5-4-617)
California Provides that lethal injection be administered unless the prisoner requests lethal gas. If a person does not choose, lethal injection will be used. (Cal. Penal Code § 3604)
Colorado Lethal injection is the sole method. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-1202)
Delaware Lethal Injection is the sole method. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 11 § 4209)  Hanging was an alternative for those whose offense occurred prior to 6/13/86, but as of July 2003 no inmates on death row were eligible to choose this alternative and Delaware dismantled its gallows.
Florida Lethal injection will be administered unless the prisoner affirmatively chooses electrocution " in writing and delivered to the warden of the correctional facility within 30 days after the issuance of mandate pursuant to a decision by the Florida Supreme Court affirming the sentence of death."  If lethal injection or electrocution is found to be unconstitutional, then any constitutional method will be administered. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 922.105)
Georgia Lethal injection is the sole method. (Ga. Code Ann. § 17-10-38) (On October 5, 2001, the Georgia Supreme Court held that the electric chair was cruel and unusual punishment and struck down the state's use of the method.)
Idaho Lethal injection is the sole method as of July 1, 2009. (Idaho Code Ann. § 19-2716)
Indiana Lethal injection is the sole method. (Ind. Code Ann. § 35-38-6-1)
Kansas Lethal injection is the sole method. (Kan. Stat. Ann. § 22-4001)
Kentucky Authorizes lethal injection for those convicted after March 31, 1998; those who committed the offense before that date may select lethal injection or electrocution. If no choice is made "at least twenty (20) days before the scheduled execution, the method shall be by lethal injection." (Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 431.220)
Louisiana Lethal injection is the sole method.  (La. Stat. Ann. § 15:569)
Mississippi Authorizes use of nitrogen hypoxia if either lethal injection is held unconstitutional or "otherwise unavailable"; then authorizes electrocution if nitrogen hypoxia and lethal injection are held unconstitutional or "otherwise unavailable"; finally authorizes firing squad if nitrogen hypoxia, lethal injection, and electrocution are held unconstitutional or "otherwise unavailable." (Miss. Code Ann. § 99-19-51)
Missouri Authorizes lethal injection or lethal gas; the statute leaves unclear who decides what method to use, the inmate or the Director of the Missouri Department of Corrections. (Mo. Ann. Stat. § 546.720)
Montana Lethal injection is the sole method. (Mont. Code Ann. § 46-19-103)
Nebraska Lethal injection is the sole method. (Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 83-964) (Electrocution was the sole method until the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled the method unconstitutional in February 2008. In May 2009, the Nebraska Legislature approved lethal injection.) 
Nevada Lethal injection is the sole method. (Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §176.355)
New Hampshire Lethal injection but allows hanging "if for any reason the commissioner [of corrections] finds it to be impractical to carry out the punishment of death by administration of the required lethal substance or substances, the sentence of death may be carried out by hanging." (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 630.5)
New Mexico Lethal injection was the sole method. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009. However, the act is not retroactive, leaving two people on the state's death row.
North Carolina Lethal injection is the sole method. (N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15-188)
Ohio Lethal injection is the sole method. (Ohio Rev. Code. Ann. § 2949.22)
Oklahoma Authorizes use of nitrogen hypoxia if either lethal injection is held unconstitutional or "otherwise unavailable"; then authorizes electrocution if nitrogen hypoxia and lethal injection are held unconstitutional or "otherwise unavailable"; finally authorizes firing squad if nitrogen hypoxia, lethal injection, and electrocution are held unconstitutional or "otherwise unavailable." (Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 22 § 1014)
Oregon Lethal injection is the sole method. (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 137.473)
Pennsylvania Lethal injection is the sole method. (61 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 4304)
South Carolina Allows prisoners to choose between lethal injection and electrocution. If a prisoner does not choose, then the default method will be electrocution for those sentenced prior to June 8, 1995 (the effective date of the law) and lethal injection for those sentenced on or after June 8, 1995.  If lethal injection is held to be unconstitutional, then electrocution will be used. (S.C. Code Ann. § 24-3-530)
South Dakota Lethal injection is the sole method. (S.D. Codified Laws § 23A-27A-32.1)
Tennessee Authorizes lethal injection for those whose capital offense occurred after December 31, 1998; those who committed the offense before that date may select electrocution by written waiver.  If lethal injection is held to be unconstitutional or if the lethal substances are unavailable, then electrocution will be used.  If both lethal injection and electrocution is held to be unconstitutional, then "any constitutional method of execution" will be used. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-23-114)
Texas Lethal injection is the sole method. 
Utah Authorizes the use of the firing squad if lethal-injection drugs are unavailable or if lethal injection is held to be unconstituitonal. Also, if a prisoner was sentenced to death before May 3, 2004, he may chose firing squad as the method of execution. (Utah Code Ann. § 77-18-5.5) 
Virginia Allows prisoners to choose between lethal injection and electrocution.  "In the event the prisoner refuses to make a choice at least 15 days prior to the scheduled execution, the method of execution shall be by lethal injection." (Va. Code Ann. § 53.1-234) 
Washington Provides that lethal injection be administered unless the inmate requests hanging. (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 10.95.180)
Wyoming Authorizes lethal gas if lethal injection is held to be unconstitutional. (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-13-904)
U.S. Military Lethal injection is the sole method.
U.S. Government Lethal injection is the sole method. (28 C.F.R. § 26.3)

(Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2011; updated by DPIC)