2011 Death Penalty Update

Between January and the end of June 2011, there were 25 executions in 9 states. During the same time period last year, there were 29 executions. Of the executions this year, 8 were carried out using the drug sodium thiopental, while 17 involved a new drug, pentobarbital. Earlier in 2011, Hospira Inc., the sole U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental, announced that it would no longer manufacture the drug, forcing states to search for foreign sources or alternative drugs for their lethal injections. Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and South Carolina have used pentobarbital instead of sodium thiopental in their executions in 2011. Ohio is the only one of those 7 states to use pentobarbital as the sole drug in its lethal-injection process. In the first half of 2011, 18 clemencies have been granted, commuting the defendant’s death sentence to life without parole. Fifteen of the commutations were in Illinois, where Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill repealing the state’s death penalty. The repeal goes into effect today, Juy 1. Seventy-six percent (76%) of the cases resulting in executions so far this year involved the murder of at least 1 white victim, even though generally whites are victims of murder less than 50% of the time.

(DPIC posted, July 1, 2011). For more information about the lethal injection controversy, visit our page on Lethal Injection. For a state-by-state listing of which drugs are used and where states obtained their lethal injection drugs, see our State-by-state lethal injection page. You can also visit our 2011 Execution List for information on the kind of lethal injection used in each of this year’s executions. See also Executions and Clemencies.