FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY

 August 28, 2014

Since 1988, the federal government has taken to trial a total of 200 federal death penalty cases involving 293 defendants in 229 trials. These 293 defendants were culled from a larger pool of 493 against whom the Attorney General had authorized the government to seek the death penalty. Excluding 11 defendants who are awaiting or currently on trial on capital charges, 231 of the remaining 482 defendants avoided trial by negotiated plea, when the government dropped its request for the death penalty without a plea agreement, dismissed charges entirely or the judge barred the death penalty. Fourteen were found not guilty of the capital charge. Two others were declared innocent by the government. Charges were dismissed against a third when grave questions were raised about his guilt. There have been three executions. One death row inmate was granted clemency. In cases where juries actually reached the point of choosing between life and death, they imposed 150 (66%) life sentences and 79 (34%) death sentences. Of these 79 sentences of death, 3 defendants received a death sentence twice. Three additional defendants received death verdicts, but new trials were granted and life sentences resulted - one by jury, another by plea, and third by judge. The dispositions of these cases is summarized below:

 

Executed 3
Sentenced to death and now pending appeal 19
Clemency 1
Awaiting retrial or resentencing after reversal on appeal 3
Death sentence vacated and request for the death penalty withdrawn 4
Life sentences imposed by juries (150) or judge (3) 153
Acquittal 14
Capital charges dismissed before trial on grounds of actual innocence
3
Dismissal of death penalty by judge after death notice filed 26
Requests for the death penalty withdrawn by the government before trial 61
Requests for the death penalty withdrawn at trial
12
Capital prosecution discontinued by government due to plea bargain before trial 114
Capital prosecution discontinued by government due to plea bargain at trial 21
Committed suicide / died 3
Lesser included conviction
3
Awaiting or on trial on capital charges
11
Sentenced to death and now pending on 2255 39
Incompetent after authorization
2
 TOTAL 493

Of the total of 493 defendants against whom the Attorney General has authorized the government to request the death penalty, 129 have been white, or 26%, 92 Hispanic, or 19%, 20 Asian/Indian/Pacific Islander/Native American, or 4%, 3 Arab, or 1% and 249 African-Americans, or 50%.  364 of the 493, or 74%, of the defendants approved for a capital prosecution by the Attorney Generals to date are members of minority groups.  Thirty-seven of the fifty-nine defendants now on federal death row under active death sentences, or 63% are non-white. 33 or 56% of federal death row were convicted of killing whites.