FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY

May 19, 2015

Since 1988, the federal government has taken to trial a total of 202 federal death penalty cases involving 295 defendants in 231 trials. These 295 defendants were culled from a larger pool of 498 against whom the Attorney General had authorized the government to seek the death penalty. Excluding 14 defendants who are awaiting or currently on trial on capital charges, 232 of the remaining 484 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 154 (66%) life sentences and 80 (34%) death sentences. Of these 80 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 21
Clemency 1
Awaiting retrial or resentencing after reversal on appeal 2
Death sentence vacated and request for the death penalty withdrawn 4
Life sentences imposed by juries (151) or judge (3) 154
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Requests for the death penalty withdrawn by the government before trial 63
Requests for the death penalty withdrawn at trial
12
Capital prosecution discontinued by government due to plea bargain before trial 115
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
Died before execution 1
 TOTAL 498

Of the total of 498 defendants against whom the Attorney General has authorized the government to request the death penalty, 131 have been white, or 26%, 92 Hispanic, or 19%, 21 Asian/Indian/Pacific Islander/Native American, or 4%, 3 Arab, or 1% and 251 African-Americans, or 50%.  367 of the 498, 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 sixty defendants now on federal death row under active death sentences, or 62% are non-white. 34 or 57% of federal death row were convicted of killing whites.