More than 3,200 inmates in 36 states are awaiting execution. The U.S. government and U.S. military also have approximately 67 people awaiting execution.
Japan is the only industrial democracy besides the United States that has the death penalty.
As of September 18, 2011 – 1,267 people have been executed in the U.S. since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated.
Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.
Capital punishment is legal in 34 states.
The legal methods of capital punishment are lethal injection and the electric chair.
35 states use lethal injection. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009; however, two prisoners remain on death row and will be executed by lethal injection.
The state of Nebraska used the electric chair as its sole method until February 2008, when the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional.
268 clemencies have been granted in the United States since 1976; 187 were in Illinois.
Over 75% of the murder victims in cases resulting in an execution were white, even though nationally only 50% of murder victims generally are white.
A 2010 national poll of registered voters conducted by Lake Research Partners showed growing support for alternatives to the death penalty compared with previous polls. A clear majority of voters (61%) would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder, including life with no possibility of parole and with restitution to the victim’s family (39%), life with no possibility of parole (13%), or life with the possibility of parole (9%).
Texas leads the way in executions with 474 total executions. In 2011 they executed 10 people, in 2010 they executed 17 people and in 2009 they executed 24 people. Virginia comes in with the second highest number of total executions at 109. In 2011 they executed one person, in 2010 and 2009 they executed 3 people each year.
Sources: CNN, U.S. State Department, Death Penalty Information Center
Ancient Israelite society was unique in that it was a true theocracy—God Himself crafted its laws. God clearly has the authority to save or condemn human lives, but does that authority still exist in a democratic government devised by fallible men and women?*
Because the New Testament’s gospel of grace is held to have fulfilled the Old Testament law, it is worth questioning whether Old Testament capital punishment—a powerful enforcer of that law—is a tool we should use today or whether it was appropriate only within the context of the Old Testament covenant.*
Regardless of our conclusions, Christians must make sure that Christlike values—justice, humility, and grace—motivate us, rather than vengeance or hate.*
Whether Christians choose to support or oppose capital punishment, we are all called to make sure that it is carried out justly and does not target innocent people.*
Quick Scripture Reference:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Jesus Christ - Matthew 5:43-48).
"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay,' saith the Lord" (St. Paul - Romans 12:19).
"At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
"But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
"At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?'
“ 'No one, sir,' she said.
“ 'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.' ” (John 8:2-11).
For questions about the State's role in Capital Punishment (Romans 13:1-4), please review our post on our "war and defense" page. This Scripture does not give earthly governing bodies ultimate authority over life and death.