82 Percent of Executions Are in the South
The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) reports, “As of January 2013, 3,125 inmates on death row came from 2 percent of the counties in the U.S.”
“The death penalty is not evenly distributed across the country,” reports DPIC. “Four states including Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Florida, have been responsible for almost 60 percent of the executions. The South has carried out 82 percent of the executions, and the Northeast, less than 1 percent.”
Since 1973, when states began sentencing people to death under new capital punishment statutes, there have been 8,300 death sentences through the end of 2011.
Although California has a larger death row population than Texas, it carried out less than 3 percent as many executions since the death penalty was reinstated, DPIC reports.
It was reported “Over half of the California’s death-row inmates come from just three counties (Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside), even though these counties represent only 39.5 percent of the state’s population.”
Professor Steven Shatz of the University Of San Francisco School of Law found that in both aggravated murder cases and ordinary murder cases, the District Attorney of Alameda County initially sought the death penalty significantly more often for South County murders (mainly the city of Hayward where victims are mostly white) than for North County murders (the city of Oakland).
Alameda ranks fourth among California counties in the number of inmates currently on death row.
“Texas has the well-deserved reputation as the capital of death penalty punishment. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, Texas alone has accounted for 38 percent of the nation’s executions,” DPIC reports.
Four counties account for nearly half of Texas’ 292 executions. These counties include Harris, Dallas, and Tarrant. The County of Bexar, around Houston, carried out 115 executions.
“Other counties that prosecute a volume of capital cases include St. Louis in Missouri, Maricopa in Arizona, Tulsa and Oklahoma counties. There are wild disparities between counties,” DPIC reports.
Baltimore County (Maryland), Orange County (California), and DeKalb County (suburban Atlanta, Georgia) show an aggressive use of the death penalty and high reversal rates.
“The correlation between the high use of the death penalty and a high rate of error means that courts in these states will be occupied for years with costly appeals and retrials,” DPIC reports. “The cost to U.S. taxpayers amounts to almost $25 billion.”
Despite the high cost to prosecute these cases, the report found state attorney generals often use the death penalty on people of color. Racial discrimination in death penalty cases is deplorable, cites the report. “Its presence in these counties responsible for the bulk of death sentences and executions in this country is particularly disturbing.”
“In this lengthy, cumbersome and expensive process, the entire justice system, and the taxpayers who support it, is shortchanged. Some states have recently chosen to opt out of this process, at great savings to their taxpayers. As the death penalty is seen, more as the insistent choice of a few at tremendous cost to the many, more states are likely to follow that course,” DPIC reports.
The public is voicing its evolving opinion through jury verdicts, elections of candidates who don’t favor the death penalty, and even in selecting prosecutors who refrain from frequent use of the death penalty, DPIC reports.
The 85 percent of counties in the U.S. has no one on death row and has not had a case resulting in an execution in over 45 years, according to DPIC.