The US Executed 23 People in 2017. That’s 23 Too Many.

In November 2016, California narrowly rejected a measure to abolish the death penalty, instead passing a measure to speed up its implementation. Many of us had been working hard to get rid of the death penalty and were heartbroken when voters rejected it.

However, even though it is shameful that capital punishment is still legal in the U.S., many states have abolished it and the number of people executed each year keeps decreasing. So there is hope.

Twenty-three people were executed this year in the U.S. and another 39 were sentenced to death, according to the annual report from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). That may sound like a big number (which it is) but the numbers are the lowest in a generation, excluding 2016.

DPIC also found that public support for the death penalty has dropped to its lowest level since 1972, with only 55 percent of Americans supporting its use, according to a Gallup poll released in October

However, it is disturbing that the DPIC report found that 90 percent of the people executed in 2017 showed “significant evidence” of mental illness, intellectual disability, brain damage, severe trauma and/or innocence.

In addition, the report stated, “One of the most disturbing features of the 2017 executions was the execution of prisoners who had never received meaningful review of important issues in their cases. At least five of those executed this year had received glaringly deficient legal representation or were denied substantial judicial review.”

As The Guardian makes clear, many people who were killed this year were sentenced decades ago. “For instance, Tommy Arthur was sentenced to death in 1983, but he faced seven execution dates in 16 years before being killed in Alabama in May.” The legal decisions that put them on death row were made with far less technological advancements than we have today. 

DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham also noted that the number of death sentences imposed in 2017 reflect their geographic isolation as well as their arbitrary nature: Just three counties – Riverside, California; Clark, Nevada; and Maricopa, Arizona – imposed more than 30 percent of all the death sentences ordered across the U.S. in 2017.

Riverside condemned five people to death, Clark four and Maricopa three. For the second time in three years, Riverside County ordered more death sentences than any other U.S. county.

How Does The U.S. Rank In The World?

More than two-thirds of the world’s nations — 141 countries – have abolished the death penalty either in law or in practice.

The U.S. is not one of them, although 19 states and the District of Columbia have declared the death penalty illegal.

Amnesty International reports that at least 1,032 people were executed in 23 countries in 2016. China was responsible for the biggest number of government-ordered murders, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan. Sixth place was taken by Egypt and seventh place by the U.S., although this was the first time since 2006 that the U.S. was not in the top five.

Amnesty says that the numbers for China are undoubtedly much higher than we know, since data on capital punishment is considered a state secret. The organization believes that thousands of executions have been carried out in China alone.

Putting people to death by government decree is wrong for many reasons. As Death Penalty Focus expresses, it is a ”cruel and simplistic response to the serious and complex problem of violent crime. It institutionalizes discrimination against the poor and people of color.”

Not only does the death penalty fail to take into consideration the underlying factors that cause violence, but it also steals money away from resources that could actually help solve those underlying problems. We must continue the fight to abolish the death penalty across the U.S.

Photo Credit: By CACorrections (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

70 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J6 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J6 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R8 months ago

I think this is a matter of opinion.

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DAVID fleming
Dave fleming9 months ago

Agreed

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Rick M
Rick Malone9 months ago

I'm surprised to see this after the article on Danny Masterson! People should be held accountable, but the death penalty should be abolished!

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Paulo R
Paulo R9 months ago

abolish it. ty

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Lesa D
Lesa D9 months ago

thank you Judy...

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