Race and the Death Penalty by the Numbers

More than 75% of death row defendants who have been executed were sentenced to death for killing white victims, even though in society as a whole about half* of all homicide victims are African American.


The federal government counts some categories, such as Hispanics, as an ethnic group rather than a race. DPIC refers to all groups as races because the sources for much of our information use these categories.

Persons Executed for Black/White Interracial Murders in the U.S. Since 1976 (as of September 24, 2020)

The cases represented here are cases of one defendant executed for the murder of one or more victims of one race. Cases involving multiple victims of several different races are not included here.

  • White Defendant / Black Victim (21)
  • Black Defendant / White Victim (296)

Current U.S. Death Row Population by Race

as of January 1, 2023


For more information about the race of defendants who have been sentenced to death in recent years, see DPIC's Sentencing Data page.


*Puzzanchera, C., Chamberlin, G., and Kang, W. (2018). Easy Access to the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports: 1980 – 2016.”