State & Federal Info

Federal Death Penalty

The federal government can seek death sentences for a limited set of crimes, but federal executions are much rarer than state executions.

Overview

The federal death penalty applies in all 50 states and U.S. territories but is used relatively rarely. About 60 inmates from many different states reside on the federal death row, most of whom are imprisoned in Terre Haute, Indiana. Three federal executions have been carried out in the modern era, all by lethal injection, with the last occurring in 2003.

The federal death penalty was held unconstitutional following the Supreme Court’s opinion of Furman v. Georgia in 1972. Unlike the quick restoration of the death penalty in most states, the federal death penalty was not reinstated until 1988, and then only for a very narrow class of offenses. The Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 greatly expanded the number of eligible offenses to about 60.

The use of the federal death penalty in jurisdictions that have themselves opted not to have capital punishment—such as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and many states—has raised particular concerns about federal overreach into state matters.


News & Developments


Jan 18, 2017

President Obama Commutes Two Death Sentences

On January 17, 2017, President Barack Obama (pic­tured) com­mut­ed the death sen­tences of Abelardo Arboleda Ortiz, a fed­er­al death row pris­on­er, and Dwight Loving, a mil­i­tary death row pris­on­er. The …