Capital punishment, better known as the death penalty, is a legal sentence is over half of US states. Although legal in the majority of states, executions have been declining since 1999. That year saw 98 executions.
Texas tops the charts in the number of executions with 548, followed by Virginia with 113, and Oklahoma with 112.
Even if a judge sentences you to death, do not give up hope. There are a few options you and your lawyer have.
Keep reading for important death sentence facts you should know in order to help aid in your defense. The more knowledge you have, the better the chances are that you will avoid the death penalty.
1. Public Support is Decreasing
While legal and still used across the nation, public support for capital punishment is growing smaller. About 49% of Americans report being in favor of the death penalty, while 42% directly oppose it.
This is down from 80% of American supporting the death penalty in 1994. Levels of the opposition are the highest they have been since 1972.
When surveyed, the majority of respondents indicated they preferred a punishment other than the death penalty. The largest portion, 39% favored life without parole plus restitution.
2. Things Can Go Wrong
Likely one reason public support has declined is the fact that sometimes there are problems with executions. Even though putting people to death has been used as a punishment for many years, it’s not a perfect process.
Lethal injections are the go-to method currently, but there have been problems even within the last few years.
Joseph Wood’s execution occurred in July of 2014. It took two hours for him to die and witnesses state they believed he was in pain and gasping for air.
Other examples include Dennis McGuire whose execution was in January 2014. This death sentence occurred in Ohio and it took 24 minutes, start to finish. Reports stated that McGuire was gasping for air for 10 to 13 minutes during this time.
McGuire was injected with a combination of two drugs that had never been used in the United States. There are lawsuits in several states where anything but the traditional three-drug combination is used.
This is something to keep in mind as grounds for an appeal if your state would be using something besides the three-drug combo for your sentence.
3. Trials are More Expensive
Your lawyer will be well aware of the fact that capital trials often cost much more than non-capital trials. While the costs associated with the actual execution aren’t crazy, the years of appeals of trial fees seriously add up.
Inmates on death-row are also much more expensive to house. They are kept segregated from general prison populations and usually have meals delivered to them. They also require one or more guards wherever they go.
In Oklahoma, cases where a death sentence is involved cost 3.2 times more than non-capital cases.
In Texas, the state that executes the most people, each death sentence case costs on average 2.3 million. This is three times the amount it would cost the state to house someone in a maximum security facility for 40 years.
4. No Strong Evidence of Deterrence
One of the most important things to know about the death penalty is that it really doesn’t work as a deterrent for future crime.
Even though the rate of executions are decreasing, crime rates (including homicides) are also declining!
Interestingly enough, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, the South had the highest murder rate even though Southern states are responsible for around 80% of United States executions.
The number of defendants receiving a death sentence has also steadily been on the decline. This means fewer people are ending up on death row for long periods of time.
5. People Don’t Believe in the Efficacy
Often, people will continue to believe in something even when evidence shows the opposite. Surprisingly, the death penalty does not fall into this category.
As explained above, there is data suggesting the death penalty does not significantly decrease crime. Recent polls have shown more people are coming to trust the evidence that a death sentence doesn’t work as a deterrent.
Survey respondents also identify concerns that innocent people will be put to death and minority groups will be impacted more.
6. Executing Innocent People
There is a good reason people surveyed about the death penalty mention being concerned about innocent people dying. Since 1973, 151 people have been released from death row. This after evidence proving their innocence.
One example of this is defendants who falsely confess due to intellectual disabilities. Another example is when witnesses later recant their testimony.
7. The Death Penalty and Plea Deals
While the evidence does not back up the claim, some defenders of the death penalty as a necessary bargaining chip for securing plea deals.
This is important to keep in mind when facing a potential case involving a death sentence.
Criminal lawyers will advise their clients on whether to plead guilty or innocent, based on discussions with law enforcement and the prosecutors.
Many criminal cases have resulted in a life sentence for the convicted, due to their willingness to plead guilty and avoid the death penalty.
A recent example of this was a murder investigation in Pennsylvania. This case resulted in a plea bargain for one of the men charged with murder. He confessed and assisted police in the investigation to avoid the death penalty.
A Death Sentence Doesn’t Have to Be the End
As you can see, there are a lot of facts to know about the death penalty. No matter your current situation, this information will help you and your criminal lawyer out.
Are you facing a death sentence and wish to speak to a professional other than your current lawyer about your experiences? Do you want to seek additional legal help? If so, please reach out.
You can contact us at your convenience and we will get right to work in helping you.