The word "capital" in "capital punishment" refers to a person's head. In the past, people were often executed by severing their head from their body. Today, in the U.S., most prisoners are executed by lethal injection.
The United States is one of the very few industrialized countries in the world which continues to execute criminals. Further, it is one of a handful of countries in the world which executes mentally ill persons, persons with very low IQ, and child murderers (i.e. persons who were under 18 at the time of their crime).
The death penalty in the U.S. is essentially a product of Southern culture. During 2002:
61 of the 71 executions were in Southern states.
Outside the South, only three States (California, Ohio and Missouri) executed anyone.
From 1976, when executions were resumed, until 2003-JAN-1, there have been 820 executions in the US. This includes 66 during 2001 and 71 in 2002.
About two out of three executions are conducted in only five states: Texas, Virginia, Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma. Texas leads the other states in number of killings. In late 2002, there were about 3,697 prisoners sentenced to death in 37 state death rows, and 31 being held by the U.S. government and military. 7 About 1.5% are women. 102 have been exonerated and freed since 1973, largely after having been proven innocent by DNA evidence.
In spite of the slight increase in U.S. executions between 2001 and 2002, the number of new death sentences decreased significantly. The Washington Post commented in late 2002 that "outside of a few states, the death penalty remains in decline....a few states account for the overwhelming majority of all executions. The more isolated they become, the greater the pressure for reform will be." 1,2
When asked whether they prefer to keep or...