Current Statistics re Use of Federal Death Penalty

FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY

July 30, 2018

Since 1988, the federal government has taken to trial a total of 206 federal death penalty cases involving 301 defendants in 236 trials. These 301 defendants were culled from a larger pool of 516 against whom the Attorney General had authorized the government to seek the death penalty. (One defendant, Ricky Allen Fackerel, was "authorized" twice for two separate murders.) Excluding 16 defendants who are awaiting or currently on trial on capital charges, 239 of the remaining 500 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. 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 85 (36%) death sentences. Of these 85 sentences of death, 4 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. 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 14
Sentenced to death and now pending 2255 48
Died Before Execution 1
Clemency 2
Awaiting retrial or re-sentencing after reversal 1
Death sentence vacated and request for the death penalty withdrawn 5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Requestes for the death penalty withdrawn by the government before trial 61
Requests for the death penalty withdrawn at trial 12
Capital prosecution discontinued by government due to plea bargain before trial 122
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 16
TOTAL 516

Of the total of 516 defendants against whom the Attorney General has authorized the government to request the death penalty, 139 have been white, or 27%, 96 Hispanic, or 19%, 23 Asian/Indian/Pacific Islander/Native American, or 4%, 3 Arab, or 1% and 255 African-Americans, or 49%.  377 of the 516, or 73%, of the defendants approved for a capital prosecution by the Attorney Generals to date are members of minority groups.  Thirty-seven of the 62 defendants now on federal death row under active death sentences, or 58% are non-white. Thirty-seven or 58% of federal death row were convicted of killing whites. Only 189, or 37% of the 516 authorized killed whites. One hundred, or 19% of the 516 killed a white female. Twenty-three of the 62 defendants currently on death row, or 37%, killed a white female.