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July 3, 2023

Half way through 2023, is US on pace for the most executions in nearly a decade?

As we turn past the half-way point in the year, I thought it interesting to note that the first half of 2023 had a total of 13 executions and that at least ten more "serious" execution dates have already been set for the the second half of 2023 (according to this accounting from the Death Penalty Information Center).  A quick glance at this DPIC fact sheet shows that we have already had more executions in 2023 than took place in all of 2021.  And, if just a few more 2023 execution dates get set and most get carried out, this year could end up with more total executions in the United States than any year since 2015 (when there were 28) or even 2014 (when there were 35).

Of course, these yearly execution totals are a far cry from what the US experienced around the turn of the millennium: during the second term of Bill Clinton and the first term of George W. Bush (from 1997 through 2004), the US averaged over 73 executions per year (with a peak of 98 executions in 1999).  Stated a bit differently, while 2023 seems to be putting the US back on a pace for around two executions per month on average, not long ago this country was averaging over six executions per month.

These numbers strike me as especially interesting as another notable US Supreme Court Term comes to an end without much SCOTUS engagement with capital punishment jurisprudence.  The US Supreme Court's evolving doctrines and scrutiny of capital convictions and sentences over the last half-century have profoundly impacted the size and nature of death rows and whose death sentences get carried out.  I suspect the current group of Justices will not be inclined to get in the way if more states start showing even more interest in completing even more executions.  But I also sense other legal actors (eg, state courts and prosecutors) and various political and practical realities may still keep the US execution rate well below past recent peaks for the foreseeable future. 

July 3, 2023 at 11:03 AM | Permalink


As I have been told, it is time to get my yarn and knitting needles out.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 3, 2023 2:47:55 PM

TarlsQtr --

Yes, where did that fruitcake go? Of course for all we know, he could be anon1 or anon2 or anon3, etc., etc. Or he could have moved on to following Scientology or whatever else these people do.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 3, 2023 11:01:29 PM

I'm disappointed in the increase of executions. However, I don't think execution levels will parallel those 20-30 years ago. The SCOTUS will not intervene with many executions based on its conservative make-up. However, I do agree that states actors will keep capital cases down simply due to capital punishment's declining support. Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards will determine whether to commute the sentences of 51 of the state's 57 death row inmates to life without parole. The state legislature failed to abolish the death penalty, so this is a viable alternative.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 4, 2023 1:54:40 AM

Right now, the controlling factor in the pace of executions is where cases are in the process. There are a handful of states -- Texas, Missouri, Florida, Oklahoma, and Alabama that are regularly executing people. There are a several other states that seem to be executing when somebody has completed initial federal habeas review but do not have that many on death row.

To use Missouri as an example, it executed two people in 2022. It has already executed three people in 2023 and could execute two or three more during the second half of the year. But there are only one or two who could be executed in 2024, and it could be two or three more years before any of the other inmates on death row complete federal habeas review. And Missouri juries and judges are now only returning a death sentence once every three or four years.

Posted by: tmm | Jul 4, 2023 8:42:30 AM

Anon --

"I do agree that states actors will keep capital cases down simply due to capital punishment's declining support."

Only it's not declining. It used to be in decline, but that was years ago, before the murder rate started back up. Support has been level at 55% for the last seven years. And 55% is more than Biden got or will get (or Trump or Obama for that matter).


"Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards will determine whether to commute the sentences of 51 of the state's 57 death row inmates to life without parole."

Happy and surprised to see that even an abolitionist freak understands that a half dozen of these sweethearts deserve the punishment the jury gave them.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 4, 2023 8:47:22 AM


Posted by: federalist | Jul 10, 2023 11:01:10 AM

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