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Capital Punishment, 1996


SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14, 1997            202/307-0784


     WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Seventy prisoners were
executed in 16 states during the first 11 months
of this year--25 more than all  last year,
according to a report published today by the
Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics
     Of the 70 executions, Texas accounted for
36--exceeding the highest number of executions in
one state in a single year since the federal
government began an annual count in 1930.  
Sixty-five of the 70 executions were by lethal
injection. The remaining five were by
     During 1996, 19 states executed 45
prisoners, 36 by lethal injection, seven by
electrocution, one by hanging and one by firing
squad, according to BJS' annual capital
punishment report.  The prisoners executed during
1996 had been on death row an average of 10 years
and 5 months, 9 months less than that for inmates
executed in 1995.
     At the end of last year, 34 states and the
federal system held 3,219 prisoners with death
sentences, including 1,820 whites and 1,349
blacks.  Three states accounted for 39 percent of
that total--California (454), Texas (438) and
Florida (373).  At the time, 49 women were on
death row--33 whites and 16 blacks.  
     Sixteen states permit the death penalty for
offenders younger than 18 years old.  In 14
states and the federal system the death penalty
may not be imposed unless the offender is 18 or
older.  Eight states do not specify a minimum
age.  Among all inmates under sentence of death
for whom age data are available, 64 (2 percent)
were 17 years old or younger at the time of their
arrest.  As of December 31, 1996, the youngest
death row inmate, in Nevada, was 17 years old and
the oldest, in Arizona, was 81.
     Between 1973 and the end of last year 5,877
men and women received state or federal death
sentences.  Of these, 1,974 (34 percent) had
their sentences or convictions overturned, 358
were executed (6 percent), 151 died (3 percent),
146 had their sentences commuted (2 percent), 29
were removed from death row for other reasons
(less than 1 percent) and 3,219 were still
awaiting execution (55 percent).
     Among individuals who received a death
sentence between 1977 and 1996, 51 percent were
white, 41 percent black or African American, 7
percent Hispanic and 1 percent other races.  Of
the 358 who were executed during this time, 200
(56 percent) were white, 134 (37 percent) were
black, 21 (6 percent) were Hispanic, and 3 (1
percent) were other races.  
     Twelve states--Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota,
Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and
Wisconsin--and the District of Columbia do not
authorize capital punishment.
     The bulletin, "Capital Punishment 1996"
(NCJ-167031), was  written by Tracy L. Snell, BJS
statistician.  Single copies may be obtained from
the BJS fax-on-demand system by dialing 
301/519-5550 or calling the BJS Clearinghouse at
1-800/732-3277.  BJS's home page address on the
Internet is:                    
     Additional criminal justice materials can be
obtained from the Office of Justice Programs
homepage at:

After hours contact:  Stu Smith at 301/983-9354

Date Published: December 14, 1997