Bioethics News

Capital punishment. Many sentenced but few executions in the United States

Pending further decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States on the death penalty, a growing trend has been observed in favour of abolitionism. This is illustrated in the bill against the death penalty approved by the Nebraska State Government, which was subsequently vetoed by the State governor, Republican Pete Ricketts.In the end however, on Wednesday 27th May, this veto was lifted with a 30 to 19 vote, despite the Republican majority (traditionally in favour of maintaining the maximum sanction).

Capital punishment: latest datacapital

In that context, a news article by the BBC on the non-execution of prisoners is interesting. It was broadcast in the wake of the death sentence handed down to DzhokharTsarnaev, one of the authors in the attack on the 2013 Boston marathon, which resulted in three deaths and 264 people injured. The decision of the judges does not necessarily imply that he will be executed, because fewer than 20% of those sentenced eventually have the penalty applied.

Between 1973 and 2013, 8,466 people were sentenced to death, but only 1,359 were executed. The BBC cited a study by Frank R. Baumgartner, a professor of Political Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who analysed the situation of inmates on death row: on December 2013, 2,979 wereawaiting execution; 392 had theirsentence commuted; and 3,194 had their sentence overturned. Others have died waiting, either of natural causes or suicide.

Campaigns in favour of abolitionism also use data (although unconfirmed) from the NGO EqualJusticeInitiative:”For every nine people that we have executed in America, we have identified one innocent person on death row”.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.