Untitled Document

A Time Line of Capital
Punishment in the US

George Kendall hanged in Jamestown Colony; first known execution in U.S.

A Massachusetts Bay Colony code mandated the death penalty for 12 offenses.
Formation of the American Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment
Michigan becomes first state to completely abolish the death penalty.
William Kemmler becomes first person executed by electrocution.
Nine states abolish the death penalty for all crimes, or strictly limit it.
The use of cyanide gas is introduced as an execution method.
Aug. 23--Massachusetts executes Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.
Executions in the United States reach an all-time peak, averaging 167 a year.
Last recorded public execution in the United States occurs in Missouri.
The last federal government execution is held this year.
Luis Jose Monge executed in Colorado's gas chamber. His death is the last before an unofficial moratorium on executions.
June 29--Furman v. Georgia invalidates death penalty statutes across the country: Death sentences are overturned and numerous inmates are re-sentenced to life in prison.
  • Death penalty is re-instated in Gregg v. Georgia
  • Mandatory death penalty laws are declared unconstitutional in Woodson v. North. Carolina
  • Jan. 17--Gary Gilmore executed by firing squad in Utah, marking the resumption of the death penalty.
  • Oklahoma becomes the first state to adopt lethal injection as a means of execution.
  • Charles Brooks becomes the first person executed by lethal injection.
    The execution of insane persons is banned in
    Ford v. Wainwright.
    The Supreme Court rules in Perry v. Lynaugh that the execution of individuals with mental retardation is not a per se violation of the 8th Amendment.
    The Supreme Court rules in Herrera v. Collins that, in the absence of other constitutional grounds, new evidence of innocence is no reason for a federal court to order a new trial.
    Sept. 13--President Clinton signs a crime bill greatly expanding the number of crimes for which one can receive the federal death penalty.
  • The House passes the Anti-Terrorism Effective Death Penalty Act, which limits inmate appeals of death sentences to one year in state cases.
  • March 7--Governor Pataki signs a bill reintroducing the death penalty in New York, the most recent state to re-enact the penalty.
  • The American Bar Association calls for a moratorium on all executions until courts can ensure that such cases are "administered fairly & impartially in accordance with due process."
  • Pope John Paul II visits the U.S., calls for an end to the death penalty.
  • The United Nations passes a Human Rights Resolution supporting a worldwide moratorium on executions.
  • Anthony Porter is released from Illinois' death row after 16 years. He is exonerated by the work of journalism students at Northwestern University.
  • Jan. 31--Governor Ryan announces a moratorium on executions in Illinois, citing growing concerns over the number of innocent people who have been released from Illinois' death row.
  • The Innocence Protection Act is introduced. Among other things, it allows prisoners on death row to request DNA testing on evidence from their cases and states that juries must be made aware of the option of life imprisonment instead of execution.
  • As of Aug. 11, 657 people have been executed post Furman, over 3,600 people await execution, and 38 states and the federal government have laws allowing the death penalty.
  • Timothy McVeigh is the first man to be executed under the Federal Death Penalty statute in 38 years.
    Sources: Amnesty International; Death Penalty Information Center
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