Capital Punishment, 1994

Capital Punishment, 1994

Bureau of Justice Statistics

"Capital Punishment, 1994" by Bureau of Justice Statistics. Alaska Justice Forum 13(1): 2-3 (Spring 1996). The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports on capital punishment in the U.S. in 1994, during which 13 states executed 31 prisoners. Based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics report "Capital Punishment 1994", NCJ-158023.

During 1994, 13 states executed 31 prisoners: 14 in Texas; 5 in Arkansas; 2 in Virginia; and 1 each in Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Washington. All were men. Eighteen of the executed prisoners were non-Hispanic whites; 10 were non-Hispanic blacks; 1, a white Hispanic; 1, white - Hispanic ethnicity undetermined; and 1, black - Hispanic ethnicity undetermined. Twenty-three of the executions were carried out by lethal injection, 6 by electrocution, 1 by lethal gas, and 1 by hanging. (See Table 1.)

Figure 1. Persons  Executed in the United States, 1930-1994

From January 1, 1977, to December 31, 1994, a total of 4,557 persons entered state and federal prisons under sentences of death, among whom 51 per cent were white, 40 per cent were black, 7 per cent were Hispanic, and 2 per cent were of other races.

During this 18-year period, a total of 257 executions took place in 24 States. Of the inmates executed, 140 were white, 98 were black, 17 were Hispanic, and 2 were Native American.

Also during 1977-94, 1,790 prisoners were removed from a death sentence as a result of dispositions other than execution (resentencing, retrial, commutation, or death while awaiting execution). Of all persons removed from under a death sentence, 53 per cent were white, 41 per cent were black, 0.9 per cent were Native American, 0.4 per cent were Asian American, and 5 per cent were Hispanic.

Table 1. Prisoners Under Sentence of Death, by Region, State, and Race, 1993-1994

Characteristics of prisoners under sentence of death

Thirty-four states and the federal prison system held a total of 2,890 prisoners under sentence of death on December 31, 1994, a gain of 161 or 5.9 per cent more than at the end of 1993. The federal prison system count remained steady at six during 1994. Three states reported 39 per cent of the nation's death row population: Texas (394), California (381), and Florida (342). Of the 38 jurisdictions with statutes authorizing the death penalty, New Hampshire and Wyoming had no one under a capital sentence, and Connecticut, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Colorado had 4 or fewer.

Among the 34 states with prisoners under sentence of death at the end of 1994, 20 had more inmates than a year earlier, 6 had fewer inmates, and 8 had the same number. Texas had an increase of 28, followed by California (18), Florida (17), Alabama (15), Pennsylvania (14), North Carolina (12), and Ohio (11). Idaho had the largest decrease (2).

During 1994, the number of blacks under sentence of death increased by 86; the number of whites increased by 68; and the number of persons of other races (Native Americans and Asians or Pacific Islanders) increased by 7.

The number of Hispanics sentenced to death rose from 209 to 224 during 1994. Twenty-five Hispanics were received under sentence of death; 8 were removed from death row, and 1 was executed. Three-fourths of the Hispanics were incarcerated in 4 states: Texas (63), California (55), Florida (32), and Arizona (20).

During 1994, the number of women sentenced to be executed increased from 36 to 41. Five women were received under sentence of death, and none was removed from death row or executed. Women were under sentence of death in 14 states. Nearly half of all women on death row at the end of the year were in Alabama, California, Florida and Illinois.

Men were 98.6 per cent (2,849) of all prisoners under sentence of death. Whites predominated (56.9%); blacks comprised 41.4 per cent; and other races (1.7%) included 23 Native Americans, 17 Asian Americans, and 8 persons of unknown race. (Among those for whom ethnicity was known, 8.4 per cent were Hispanic.)

Among inmates under sentence of death on December 31, 1994, for whom information on education was available, about three-fourths had either completed high school (37.4%) or finished 9th, 10th, or 11th grade (37.1%). The percentage who had not gone beyond eighth grade (15.3%) was about 50 per cent larger than that of inmates who had attended some college (10.2%). The median level of education was the 12th grade.

Of inmates under a capital sentence and with reported marital status, nearly half had never married; somewhat more than a fourth were married when they were sentenced; and nearly a fourth were divorced, separated, or widowed.

Among all inmates under sentence of death, 44 per cent were age 30 to 39 on December 31, 1994, and 73 per cent were age 25 to 44. The median age was 35 years. Less than 1 per cent were younger than 20 and 3 per cent were age 55 or older. The youngest offender under sentence of death was age 17; the oldest was 79. More than half of all inmates under sentence of death at the end of 1994 were age 20 to 29 when they were arrested for their capital offense; 11 per cent were age 19 or younger; and less than 1 per cent were age 55 or older.

Entries and Removals under the Death Sentence, 1977-1994

From 1977, the year after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of revised state capital punishment laws, to 1994, a total of 4,557 persons entered prison under sentence of death. During these 18 years, 257 persons were executed, and 1,790 were removed from under a death sentence by appellate court decisions and reviews, commutations, or death. (An individual may have received and been removed from under a sentence of death more than once).

Among individuals who received a death sentence between 1977 and 1994, 2,336 (51%) were white, 1,838 (40%) were black, 316 (7%) were Hispanic, and 67 (2%) were of other races. The distribution by race and Hispanic origin of the 1,790 inmates who were removed from death row between 1977 and 1994 was as follows: 940 whites (53%), 735 blacks (41%), 90 Hispanics (5%), and 25 persons of other races (1%). Of the 257 who were executed, 140 (54%) were white, 98 (38%) were black, 17 (7%) were Hispanic, and 2 (1%) were other races.

The preceding article was derived from Bureau of Justice Statistics report "Capital Punishment 1994," NCJ-158023. Copies of the entire report may be obtained from the Alaska Justice Statistical Analysis Unit or on the World Wide Web from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) at