Eighteenth Century B.C. - first established death penalty laws.

Eleventh Century A.D. - William the Conqueror will not allow persons to be hanged except in cases of murder.

1608 - Captain George Kendall becomes the first recorded execution in the new colonies.

1632 - Jane Champion becomes the first woman executed in the new colonies.

1767 - Cesare Beccaria’s essay, On Crimes and Punishment, theorizes that there is no justification for the state to take a life.

Late 1700s - United States abolitionist movement begins.

Early 1800s - Many states reduce their number of capital crimes and build state penitentiaries.

1823-1837 - Over 100 of the 222 crimes punishable by death in Britain are eliminated.

1834 - Pennsylvania becomes the first state to move executions into correctional facilities.

1838 - Discretionary death penalty statutes enacted in Tennessee.

1847 - Michigan becomes the first state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except treason.

1890- William Kemmler becomes first person executed by electrocution.

Early 1900s - Beginning of the “Progressive Period” of reform in the United States.

1907-1917 - Nine states abolish the death penalty for all crimes or strictly limit it.

1920s - 1940s - American abolition movement loses support.

1924 - The use of cyanide gas introduced as an execution method

1930s - Executions reach the highest levels in American history - average 167 per year.

1948 - The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaiming a “right to life.”

1950-1980 - De facto abolition becomes the norm in western Europe.

1958 - Trop v. Dulles. Eighth Amendment’s meaning contained an “evolving standard of decency that marked the progress of a maturing society.”

1966 - Support of capital punishment reaches all-time low. A Gallup poll shows support of the death penalty at only 42%.

1968 - Witherspoon v. Illinois. Dismissing potential jurors solely because they express opposition to the death penalty held unconstitutional.

1970 - Crampton v. Ohio and McGautha v. California. The Supreme Court approves of unfettered jury discretion and non-bifurcated trials.

June 1972 - Furman v. Georgia. Supreme Court effectively voids 40 death penalty statutes and suspends the death penalty.

1976 - Gregg v. Georgia. Guided discretion statutes approved. Death penalty reinstated

January 17, 1977 - Ten-year moratorium on executions ends with the execution of Gary Gilmore by firing squad in Utah.

1977 - Oklahoma becomes the first state to adopt lethal injection as a means of execution.

1977 - Coker v. Georgia. Held death penalty is an unconstitutional punishment for rape of an adult woman when the victim is not killed.

December 7, 1982 - Charles Brooks becomes the first person executed by lethal injection.

1984 - Velma Barfield becomes the first woman executed since reinstatement of the death penalty.

1986 - Ford v. Wainwright. Execution of insane persons banned.

1986 - Batson v. Kentucky. Prosecutor who strikes a disproportionate number of citizens of the same race in selecting a jury is required to rebut the inference of discrimination by showing neutral reasons for his or her strikes.

1987 - McCleskey v. Kemp. Racial disparities not recognized as a constitutional violation of “equal protection of the law” unless intentional racial discrimination against the defendant can be shown.

1988 - Thompson v. Oklahoma. Executions of offenders age fifteen and younger at the time of their crimes is unconstitutional.

1989 - Stanford v. Kentucky, and Wilkins v. Missouri. Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed at age sixteen or seventeen.

1989 - Penry v. Lynaugh. Executing persons with “mental retardation” is not a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

1993 - Herrera v. Collins. In the absence of other constitutional grounds, new evidence of innocence is no reason for federal court to order a new trial.

1994 - President Clinton signs the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act expanding the federal death penalty.

1996 - President Clinton signs the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act restricting review in federal courts.

1998 - Karla Faye Tucker and Judi Buenoano executed.

November 1998 - Northwestern University holds the first-ever National Conference on Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty. The Conference brings together 30 inmates who were freed from death row because of innocence.

January 1999 - Pope John Paul II visits St. Louis, Missouri, and calls for an end to the death penalty.

April 1999 - U.N. Human Rights Commission Resolution Supporting Worldwide Moratorium On Executions.

June 1999 - Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, signs a decree commuting the death sentences of all of the convicts on Russia’s death row.

January 2000 - Illinois Governor George Ryan declares a Moratorium on executions and appoints a blue-ribbon Commission on Capital Punishment to study the issue.

2002 - Ring v. Arizona. A death sentence where the necessary aggravating factors are determined by a judge violates a defendant’s constitutional right to a trial by jury.

2002 - Atkins v. Virginia. the execution of “mentally retarded” defendants violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

January 2003 - Gov. George Ryan grants clemency to all of the remaining 167 death row inmates in Illinois because of the flawed process that led to these sentences.

June 2004 - New York’s death penalty law declared unconstitutional by the state’s high court.

March 2005 - In Roper V. Simmons, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for those who had committed their crimes under 18 years of age was cruel and unusual punishment.

December 2007 - The New Jersey General Assembly votes to become the first state to legislatively abolish capital punishment since it was re-instated in 1976.

February 2008 - The Nebraska Supreme Court rules electrocution, the sole execution method in the state, to be cruel and unusual punishment, effectively freezing all executions in the state.

June 2008 - Kennedy v. Louisiana. Capital punishment cannot apply to those convicted of child rape where no death occurs.

March 2009 - Governor Bill Richardson signs legislation to repeal the death penalty in New Mexico, replacing it with life without parole.

March 2011 - Governor Pat Quinn signs legislation to repeal the death penalty in Illinois, replacing it with life without parole.