Current Statistics re Use of Federal Death Penalty


October 30, 2019

Since 1988, the federal government has taken to trial a total of 208 federal death penalty cases involving 304 defendants in 238 trials.  These 304 defendants were culled from a larger pool of 530 (FN1) against whom the Attorney General had authorized the government to seek the death penalty.  Excluding 29 defendants who are awaiting or currently on trial on capital charges, 213 of the remaining 501 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.  Three defendants died before trial.  Two were found incompetent after authorization.  Two death row inmates were granted clemency.  In cases where juries actually reached the point of choosing between life and death, they imposed 152 (64%) life sentences and 86 (36%) death sentences.  Of these 86 sentences of death, 4 defendants received a death sentence twice.  Three additional defendants received death verdicts, but new trials were granted before sentencing and life sentences resulted - one by jury, another by plea, a third by judge.  An additional defendant received a life sentence, but the government filed for and received a new trial.  The dispositions of these cases is summarized below:

Executed 3
Sentenced to death and now pending appeal 15
Sentenced to death and now pending 2255 48
Died Before Execution 1
Clemency 2
Awaiting retrial or re-sentencing after reversal 0
Death sentence vacated and request for the death penalty withdrawn 5
Life sentences imposed by juries (152) or judges (3) 155
Life sentence vacated and retrial pending 1
Acquittal 14
Capital charges dismissed before trial on grounds of actual innocence 3
Dismissal of death penalty by Judge after death notice filed 28
Requestes for the death penalty withdrawn by the government before trial 62
Requests for the death penalty withdrawn at trial 12
Capital prosecution discontinued by government due to plea bargain before trial 123
Capital prosecution discontinued by government due to plea bargain at trial  22
Committed suicide/died 3
Lesser included conviction 3
Incompetent after authorization 2
Awaiting or on trial on capital charges 28
TOTAL 530 (FN2)

Of the total of 530 (FN1) defendants against whom the Attorney General has authorized the government to request the death penalty, 142 have been white, or 27%, 98 Hispanic, or 18%, 27 Asian/Indian/Pacific Islander/Native American/Filipino/Middle Eastern, or 5% and 263 African-Americans, or 50%.  387 of the 528, or 73%, of the defendants approved for a capital prosecution by the Attorney Generals to date are members of minority groups.  Thirty-eight of the sixty-three defendants now on federal death row under active death sentences, or 60%, are non-white. Thirty-eight, or 60%, of federal death row were convicted of killing whites.  Only 193, or 37% of the 527 authorized killed whites.  103, or 20% of the 527 killed a white female.  Twenty-four of the sixty-three defendants currently on death row, or 38%, killed a white female.


FN 1: There are three defendants who received a notice of intent from two different indictments: Fackrel (ED TX) has two separate indictments and crimes, both in the ED TX.  Knorr and McIntosh (SD IL) (CD CA) have two separate indictments, for the same crime.  For purposes of these statistics, they are only counted one time.


FN 2: This totals 525 as Fackrel (ED TX) is reflected both as his death sentence (one case) and awaiting trial (another case).