Capital Punishment in the United States

Though still a controversial issue, capital punishment continues to be practiced in the US. The death penalty is still a form of punishment that is practiced in 31 states, the federal government and the military.

Capital crimes

These are crimes for which someone can be sentenced to death:

1. Aggravated murder

This includes murder which involves the rape of the victim, the murder of an on-duty police officer and robbery-murder in almost all states. However, most aggravating factors vary from state to state. Some states have even included child murder in their list of aggravating factors.

2. Crimes against the state

These may include treason, espionage, terrorism and large-scale drug trafficking.

Methods of execution

The death penalty can be executed in several ways. Some states have only one method of execution available while there are those who provide for more than one method.

1. Lethal injection

This is the most common method of execution in the United States. The lethal injection is the primary method of execution available in all 31 states that allow the death penalty. However, other methods are available in most states.
In several states, they use a concoction of three drugs to execute this sentence while some states use a single drug.

2. Electrocution

This method of execution is available in 8 of the 31 states that have the death penalty. These states are Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

3. Hanging

This method of execution is only available in 2 states; New Hampshire and Washington. While offenders in Washington are allowed to choose this method over lethal injection, those in New Hampshire can only be hanged when the lethal injection is unavailable.

4. Gas inhalation

This type of execution is available in Wyoming, Missouri, Oklahoma, California, and Arizona. In the first three states, gas inhalation is only used as a backup method when lethal injection is unavailable.
However, in Arizona, an offender can choose to use this method even in the availability of the lethal injection. In California, it is both a backup method and an offender choice.

5. Firing squad

man standing in front of firing squad

Execution by firing squad is rare and is only allowed in 2 states; Utah and Oklahoma. In Utah, it is only administered if an offender chooses it while in Oklahoma it serves as a backup method. It is also worth mentioning that Oklahoma is the only state that offers more than two execution methods.

Prevalence of the death penalty

Although offenders are still sentenced to death in the US, it’s a rare occurrence. Currently, there is an average of one death sentence for every 200 murder convictions.