Research, Technology

Where and how the death penalty is practiced in the USA in the 21st century

The word "execution" is usually taken as aa relic of the past, which is associated with the Inquisition, the Middle Ages and executioners in red cloaks. Most civilized countries abandoned the death penalty back in the 80s and 90s of the last century. In particular, in all member countries of the Council of Europe it is constitutionally prohibited, with the exception of Russia, where a moratorium has been introduced on it. But, despite the general trend and calls from the UN, the United States of America, or rather, some of them, are in no hurry to abandon the death penalty. Moreover, the methods of killing criminals here are not always the most humane, if at all this word can be applied in relation to death. I propose to talk about them. But keep in mind that the topic is not pleasant. Therefore, if you are receptive and impressionable, you should not continue reading.

The US is the only Western country that still allows the death penalty.


  • 1 Which US states regularly use the death penalty
  • 2 For which in the USA they can be sentenced to death
  • 3 Lethal injection is the most common form of execution
  • 4 The electric chair - why it was abandoned
  • 5 Execution in the US is optional

Which US states regularly use the death penalty?

"The death penalty is a disgusting practice"according to a UN statement dated 11 March 20021. But we will neither condemn nor justify it, but will only figure out where and how it is applied in the USA. First of all, it must be said that executions in America at the Federal level were not carried out for 17 years until July 2020, because a moratorium was imposed on them. However, in the last months of his tenure, President Donald Trump canceled it. Then 13 death sentences were carried out at once.

States marked in red are those that allow the death penalty.

Later, last July, the Attorney GeneralThe US has reintroduced a moratorium. But this applies to the federal level. But at the level of individual states, the situation looks different - the death penalty is allowed in 28 states, that is, in most of the country. The leader in the execution of death sentences is Texas - this state accounts for almost half of the executions of all time. Also recently, death sentences are regularly carried out in states such as Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee. In addition, the death penalty is allowed in Washington, California, Florida and several other states.

For what in the USA can be sentenced to death

The death penalty in the United States is imposed mainly foraggravated murder. In different states, aggravating circumstances may be different - this is the murder of several people, torture or rape, the murder of a police officer, a child, etc. Both men and women can be sentenced to capital punishment.

Death penalty for aggravated murder

The exception is teenagers, for whomlife imprisonment is chosen as the highest penalty. Interestingly, a teenager has the right to petition the judge to be tried as an adult. If so, he may be sentenced to death. But in the US jurisprudence, there have not yet been such cases.

They can also be sentenced to deathpersons who have committed crimes against the state. This is terrorism, espionage, betrayal of the motherland, etc. Recently, however, states have been phasing out the death penalty for non-homicide crimes.

Injection facilities at a Florida prison

Lethal injection is the most common form of execution.

Since the beginning of the 80s, the United States began to perform mortalsentences by injection. Currently, this is the most common method, which is considered the most humane and technologically advanced. Usually, a person sentenced to death is injected with three injections - an anesthetic, a paralytic and poison. The first provides anesthesia, that is, a person falls asleep and does not feel what is happening to him. The paralytic immobilizes the muscles, and the poison provides cardiac arrest.

For the first time this execution was applied in relation to the murderer Charles Brooks. According to eyewitnesses, after the injection, he yawned, his stomach rose and fell, and after a few minutes the doctor pronounced him dead.

It would seem that the technology is really humane -no pain, blood, screams, etc. However, how the practice is, no one conducted. The study was carried out only in 2005, when more than a thousand executions were carried out by injection. And as it turns out, the lethal injection isn't as painless as it was supposed to be.

Surgeon Leonidas Koniaris and his team found that more than 40% of those sentenced at the time of death are conscious

Scientists led by surgeon Leonidas Koniarisstudied archival records of executions that took place in prisons in several states. In the end, it turned out that 44% of those sentenced were conscious when they died. But they could not scream or report it, as they were immobilized by a paraplegic. Further research showed that the drug responsible for cardiac arrest most likely did not work. As a result, death came from suffocation caused by a paraplegic.

Due to drug shortages in some statesbegan to experiment with executions. This further aggravated the situation - often they did not go as planned. In one case, a prisoner died within hours of asphyxiation. In 2018, there was also a case when it was not possible to carry out the death sentence at all - the doctors simply could not find veins on the body of a former drug addict. They gave Doyle Hamm, who was sentenced for murder, 12 injections, which the defense regarded as cruel punishment. Two and a half hours later, it was decided to postpone the execution of the death sentence.

Execution in the electric chair declared extremely cruel

Electric chair - why they abandoned it

When it comes to executions in the US, what usually comes to mind iscomes the electric chair, which is often shown in films, and about which quite a few songs have been sung. This is not surprising, since until the 80s of the last century it was the most common method of execution. Currently, in most states, the execution in the electric chair has long been abandoned. For example, in 2008, the Nebraska Supreme Court banned this method of execution as an extremely cruel method of punishment.

Death on him is really from the kindred of torture - shepainful and ugly. Often, the hair of the condemned caught fire during the execution, so the guards always had fire extinguishers with them. We will not go into further details.

Execution in the USA is used at will

The shooting is more associated with the first halfXX century and military operations. However, in the United States, this type of execution was last used in 2010. True, it happened at the request of the sentenced Ronnie Lee Gardner himself. He was convicted back in 1985 for shooting a prosecutor while trying to escape. The death sentence was carried out only 25 years later.

Ronnie Lee Gardner asked to be executed by firing squad

Before the execution of the condemned usuallytied to a chair and put a bag over his head. The firing squad, consisting of five people, makes a volley in the chest of the criminal. One of the team members has a gun loaded with blanks, but none of their team members know who exactly.

On our Yandex.Zen channel you will find even more exciting materials that have not been published on the site.

During the execution of John Deering in 1938,an electrocardiograph was connected to his body. Such an experiment was proposed by the condemned himself. Monitoring showed that John Dearing's heart stopped beating 15 seconds after the salvo. However, this does not mean that death immediately followed the stop. The study found that cardiac arrest in rats was followed by a 30-second burst of brain activity. You can read more about what happens to the human body at the time of death here.

As for other methods of execution, such ashanging, guillotine, etc., they have not been used since the end of the 20th century. Perhaps in the near future, the current methods of execution, like the death sentence itself, will also remain in the past. Someone might say that the total abolition of the death penalty will increase the number of dangerous criminals. However, in the world, on the contrary, there are fewer serial killers.