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November 7, 2022

Are there going to be five executions in four US states over the next ten days?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by my quick look this morning at the "Upcoming Executions" page over at the Death Penalty Information Center.   That page shows that Texas has two executions scheduled, and Alabama, Arizona and Oklahoma each have one execution scheduled, between November 9 and November 17.  If all five of these executions go forward, it will be the most executions completed in the US within such a short period of time in a decade.  (In 2012, between November 6 and 15, Texas completed three executions and Ohio and Oklahoma also completed one execution.)

So many executions in a short period would be a pretty dramatic break from recent norms throughout the US.  Since roughly the start of the pandemic, the US has averaged only about one execution per month as various states have continued to have various difficulties with converting death sentences into completed executions.  Even before COVID hit, the US averaged only about two executions per month when President Trump was in office and less than four executions per month during President Obama's years in the oval office. (About seven executions per month was the national average during President Clinton's second term, and around five per month was the national norm for most of President Bush's two terms).

With all the recent political discussions about crime and crime policy, I have been a bit surprised that we have not seen a significant uptick in chatter about capital punishment polcies and practices this election season.  But it does seem we may be on the verge of an uptick in the number of executions this November.

UPDATE:  I just saw this notable new Salon commentary by Austin Sarat headlined "Crime is a hot issue, but even Republicans don't talk about the death penalty: That's good news."  I recommend the full extended piece, and here are a few excerpts:

In the past, politicians at every level responded to public concerns about crime with law-and-order campaigns in which promises to bring back or enforce the death penalty featured prominently....

Throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries, death-penalty ballot measures have been used as tools of partisan and political advantage, largely to increase turnout among a targeted portion of the electorate in order to benefit "law and order" candidates.

But not this year.

Only in Alabama will voters be asked to decide on a death-penalty ballot measure. It would "require the governor to provide notice to the attorney general and make reasonable efforts to notify a designated family member of a victim before granting a commutation (a reduced sentence such as life imprisonment) or reprieve (temporary stay of execution) of a death sentence." ...

But in campaigns up and down the ballot, even as conservative candidates have accused their opponents of being soft on crime and promised robust anti-crime measures, Republican gubernatorial candidates in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Oklahoma have said little or nothing about the death penalty....

Whatever the verdict delivered by voters this week may be, the relative invisibility of the death penalty in this year's political campaigns is a clear sign of the progress abolitionists have made in changing the national temperature on that issue.

November 7, 2022 at 12:35 PM | Permalink

Comments

It seems that capital punishment is on its last legs in the U.S. I wish every state would abolish it absent the SCOTUS ruling capital punishment unconstitutional. However, that won't happen with the current make-up of the court. The death penalty continues in "red" states but I'm curious as to counties where the defendants were convicted. My guess is that these defendants were tried in rural or suburban counties that skew Republican.

Posted by: anon | Nov 7, 2022 10:17:47 PM

"It seems that capital punishment is on its last legs in the U.S."......has said one pro-criminal group or another regularly for at least the last 60 years.

In fact, if you take a look at Gallup, support for the DP has been stable at 54% or slightly better for the last five years. Joe Biden would love to have an approval rating of 54%.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 8, 2022 12:46:39 AM

It is on its last legs as support for capital punishment, and state sanctioned executions, have declined over the past 20 years. This is in stark contrast from the 90s based on the number of executions carried out each year.

Posted by: anon | Nov 8, 2022 10:26:40 AM

anon --

Support declined from the mid-Nineties until four or five years ago. It has stayed at roughly 54% since then. In other words, the erosion of support came to an end several years ago, and has stayed still at a healthy majority since then. https://news.gallup.com/poll/1606/death-penalty.aspx How are you planning on ending the DP when both popular majorities and SCOTUS back it? Is it going to get repealed by the people on Mars?

Support for the DP is a lagging indicator of the murder rate. When the murder rate rises, a few years later support for the DP will start to rise. The murder rate has been up over the last few years, so I think you can see what will be happening with support for the DP.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 8, 2022 5:41:33 PM

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