Capital Punishment 2000 and 2001

Capital Punishment 2000 and 2001

Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage. "Capital Punishment 2000 and 2001." Alaska Justice Forum 19(1): 4-5. In 2000, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 85 prisoners were executed in 14 states in the U.S. Another 3,593 prisoners were under death sentences nationwide. This article provides statistics and information about the state of the death penalty in the U.S. in 2000.

According to figures compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 14 states executed 85 prisoners in 2000—13 fewer executions in the United States than in 1999. Of those executed 43 were white; 35, black; 6, Hispanic, and 1, American Indian; 83 were men and 2, women. In 2001, according to preliminary figures also released by BJS, 66 people were executed—63 men and 3 women. Of these individuals, 48 were white; 17, black; and 1 was American Indian. The federal government executed two inmates in 2001—the first federal executions since 1963.

BJS also reports that at the end of 2000, 3593 prisoners were under a death sentence in the country as a whole, with the highest numbers of prisoners on death row in California (586), Texas (450), Florida (371) and Pennsylvania (238). Thirty-eight states and the federal government provided for the death penalty for certain offenses (Table 1). (Currently both Maryland and Illinois have placed moratoria on use of the death penalty pending studies of its application.) Of the states with the penalty, 37 provided for automatic review of all death sentences, regardless of the defendant's wishes, with most requiring review of both the conviction and the sentence, usually in the state's highest appellate court. The federal government did not provide for automatic review of death sentences.

Table 1. Status of the Death Penalty, December 31, 2000

From 1977 through 2000, 683 persons were executed in the United States, with the highest number of executions occurring in Texas—239—and the second highest in Virginia—81. For the prisoners executed from 1977 through 2000, the average time between imposition of sentence and execution was more than 10 years. Between 1973 and 2000, higher courts overturned 681 convictions and 1,102 sentences in death penalty cases. These two figures amount to 32.4 percent of death sentences from 1973 to 2000. BJS does not provide details or figures on the bases for the overturns.

In its annual review of capital punishment figures for the nation, BJS does not present figures on the cost of the death penalty process nor does it look at figures on legal representation of defendants in capital cases. Other BJS figures, however, provide some idea of the legal representation picture. Figures on counsel in criminal cases indicate that close to 56 percent of defendants in homicide cases (which are the most common capital cases) in 1996 had state-appointed counsel; close to 40 percent used private counsel; 2.5 percent used a combination and 2.5 percent of defendants represented themselves. Of inmates confined in 1997 for homicide convictions in state and federal prisons, 67 percent were represented by appointed counsel.

Table 2. Persons Under Sentence of Death in the U.S., 1990 and 2000
Table 3. Criminal HIstory Profile of Prisoners under Sentence of Death, 2000
Table 4. Minimum Age Authorized for Capital Punishment, 2000