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The death penalty as a punishment is as old as time itself. It has been in existence for several millennia. We can see it in Bible stories where people were stoned to death for adultery and even in the crucifixion story which is the bedrock of Christianity.


The reasoning behind the execution of crimes varies around the world. For some countries in the Pacific region, an accusation of sorcery can earn you the death penalty while in other westernized countries, it is murder, rape, etc. that can result in a death penalty sentence. This article will discuss 10 Interesting And Popular Facts About The Death Penalty You Should Know that can give you a better understanding of the death penalty.


1.   Death Penalty and Extrajudicial Killings Are Different: The death penalty is when an offender is sentenced to death after legal proceedings and a conviction in a court of law. It is a sentence carried out by the government either at the state or federal level after legal procedures. On the other hand, extrajudicial killings, though carried out by a government official, is illegal and in most cases, a crime. It is a violation of the fundamental human right to life, the killing of an individual by a government authority or state agent without any legal process like a conviction or sentencing. It takes away the right of an individual to a fair and unbiased trial. Some opponents of the death penalty or extrajudicial killings may believe that killing someone as a punishment in return for them killing someone is wrong.


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2.   Stay of Execution: In most countries, a death sentence doesn’t mean immediate execution. There is usually a waiting period where the convicted defendant can appeal their cases repeatedly. Inmates waiting for their execution are usually said to be on ‘death row’. Death row can vary depending on the state of conviction and the type of case. In the USA, some prisoners remain on death row for as little as 5 years, and some stay for as long as 10 years after conviction. This stay of execution is another aspect of the death penalty debate, and it has been regarded as “so inhumane” by the European Union. In 1989, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that “EU countries may extradite an offender accused of a capital crime to a country that practices capital punishment only if a guarantee is given that the death penalty will not be sought.” As of April 2021, the total number of prisoners on death row in the USA was 2,504 with California having a leading number of 704 death row inmates.


3.   Wrongful Execution: There is always a chance that a prisoner convicted of the death penalty is convicted wrongly. The death penalty convictions are sometimes flawed and defined by bias and error. Unfortunately, there is no systemic method in place to determine the accuracy of a criminal conviction. A study says that the estimated proportion of erroneous convictions is 4.1% which means that approximately 120 of about 3,000 inmates on death row in the USA were incarcerated wrongly. Some of the causes of these wrongful convictions are forced confessions from the suspects, inadequate legal defense, false and misleading forensic evidence, and perjury by witnesses, which is the leading cause. About 111 defendants that were exonerated in 2018 involved witnesses who lied on the stand or deliberately accused the defendant wrongly. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell the number of innocent deaths from 1539 people executed since the 1970s, but there is an estimate of at least 180 innocent people have been executed since 1978.

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4.   Juvenile Executions: International human rights law has prohibited the use of the death penalty for people that committed a crime below the age of 18. Some countries still incarcerate, sentence, and proceed to execute juvenile defendants, which calls into question death penalty opponents the respect that sovereign states have for international law.

5.   Clemency And Pardons For Incarcerated Death Row Inmates: Clemency and pardons are extremely important aspects of the death penalty system in the USA. With clemency, a president, governor, or administrative board may reduce a defendant’s sentence or grant a pardon to a defendant. For death row inmates, clemency may mean that their death sentence is transformed to a life imprisonment sentence instead. Some of the reasons that a defendant's legal team may provide for the granting of clemency include in a capital case usually include but are not limited to an argument of mental illness, a co-defendant that received a lesser sentence, and evidence suggesting wrongful conviction. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the rate at which clemency is granted to death row prisoners has dropped to less than 4% from a whopping 20-25 percent rate of clemency in the earlier 20th century. For pardons, the President of the United States could first grant a federal prisoner on death row a commutation that would release them from custody. Then, a pardon could be granted. Commutations are for those who are still serving their sentence. Pardons are generally for those who have completed their sentence. 


6.   The USA’s Rank In Yearly Executions: It may surprise people that a country like the USA which is an image that most other countries look up to politically, socially, and culturally will rank fifth in the number of executions of death penalty prisoners yearly. The USA has held a rank in the top five for the highest number of executions every year taking a spot just behind China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. The United States of America is also the only developed Western country that still employs capital punishment.  

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7.   Death Penalty Does Not Reduce Crime: Most states in the USA that use the death penalty sentencing have recorded higher crime rates than states that don’t. In Canada, the murder rate reduced after the abolition of the death penalty for all crimes in 1998. The debate against death penalty sentencing suggests that the idea that the threat of death affects the actions of intending criminals is ridiculous because at the point the crime is committed, they are probably not thinking about the consequences of their actions, or they don’t care about their safety.


8.   The Decline Of The Death Penalty: Gradually, the use of the death penalty is declining from country to country. In 2012, only a handful of countries (21 countries) carried out executions for prisoners facing the death sentence. The number of countries that have abolished the practice of death sentencing increased from 48 to 106 between 1991 and 2017.


9.   Statistics of the Yearly Number of Death Penalty Executions: In 2019, six hundred and fifty-seven executions were recorded by Amnesty International. This is the lowest number recorded in the last decade with China having the highest number of executions.


10.   The USA Resumes Execution: Under the Trump administration, the USA resumed federal executions after a 17-year hiatus. Donald Trump is the first president of the United States in 120 years that have the number of federal executions in double digits. The highest that any federal administration has ever seen.


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Most American citizens favor the death penalty on the moral ground that a person that takes a life doesn’t deserve to live. However, several organizations are strongly against the use of such a cruel punishment stating that the state is carrying out a vengeance rather than a punishment. The death penalty debate covers the morality argument, utilitarian argument, and practical arguments, dishing out hard facts about the death penalty, cost, and consequences that everyone, including the government, should consider.


For more information on the death penalty, click the link, below: (Disclaimer: Affiliate Advertising. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)


Debating The Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts On Both Sides Make Their Case Illustrated Edition By Hugo  Adam Bedau



Arguments for and against capital punishment

Death penalty overview

Capital punishment


Facts about the death penalty

Extrajudicial executions

Death Penalty - The question we need to ask about the death penalty in America