Tuesday night’s botched execution in Oklahoma, in which an inmate died of a heart attack 43 minutes after receiving what was supposed to be a lethal injection, has reignited the death penalty debate. But in more than half of the states that have the death penalty, lethal injection is still allowed.
In more than half the states, lethal injections are the preferred method of execution, according to a list maintained by the Death Penalty Information Center. The following methods are still potential alternatives—by prisoner or state choice or if injections are ruled unconstitutional—in some states: hanging in New Hampshire; firing squad in Utah and Oklahoma; gas in Arizona, California, Missouri and Wyoming; electrocution in Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Prisoners can choose between injection or sanctioned alternatives in six states — Alabama, California, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. In California, the alternative is lethal gas and in Washington it’s hanging. In the rest, it’s electrocution.
In seven other states, injections are the method of choice, but rules may allow other methods retroactively or if injection is found to be unconstitutional. Missouri allows executions by injection or gas, while New Hampshire uses injections or hanging, but only if injections cannot be given. (A repeal of New Hampshire’s death penalty failed by a single vote last month.)
Connecticut, Maryland and New Mexico have abolished the death penalty, but inmates on death row before abolition will be executed by injection (and/or potentially gas in Maryland’s gas). Governors in some states have issued partial or complete moratoriums on executions, despite laws remaining on the books. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee this year suspended the death penalty, for example. Fifteen other states have abolished the death penalty.
All the data in the map and text above and chart below come from the Death Penalty Information Center. For more detail, check out their full list of execution methods by state.
|Ohio||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Delaware||Lethal Injection is the sole method.|
|Georgia||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Colorado||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Indiana||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Kansas||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Louisiana||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Mississippi||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Montana||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Nevada||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|North Carolina||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Oregon||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Pennsylvania||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|South Dakota||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Texas||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Idaho||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Nebraska||Lethal injection is the sole method.|
|Arkansas||Lethal injection for criminals whose offense occurred on or after July 4, 1983. Those who committed their crime before then may choose lethal injection or electrocution.|
|Kentucky||Lethal injection for those convicted after March 31, 1998. Individual who committed crimes before then may choose lethal injection or electrocution.|
|Arizona||Lethal injection for those sentenced after November 15, 1992. Those sentenced before then may choose lethal injection or lethal gas.|
|Tennessee||Lethal injection for those whose offense occurred after December 31, 1998. Those conviced of crimes committed before then may choose electrocution by written waiver.|
|Maryland||Lethal injection for those sentenced on or after March 25, 1994. Those sentenced before then may choose lethal injection or lethal gas. (Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013, but the law was not retroactive so 5 people were left on death row.)|
|Connecticut||Lethal injection is the sole method. (Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2012, but the law wasn’t retroactive so 11 people were left on death row.)|
|New Mexico||Lethal injection is the sole method. (New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009, but the law wasn’t retroactive so two people were left on death row.)|
|Missouri||Lethal injection or lethal gas; law is unclear who decides.|
|New Hampshire||Lethal injection, but allows hanging if injection cannot be given.|
|Utah||Lethal injection, but firing squad is allowed if injection is found to be unconstitutional. Inmates who chose to be executed by firing squad before May 3, 2004, may still be allowed to be executed in that manner.|
|Wyoming||Lethal injection, but lethal gas is allowed if injection is found to be unconstitutional.|
|Alabama||Lethal injection, unless the inmate requests electrocution.|
|Washington||Lethal injection, unless the inmate requests hanging.|
|California||Lethal injection, unless the inmate requests lethal gas.|
|Oklahoma||Lethal injection. If that’s ruled unconstitutional, then electrocution. If that is ruled unconstitutional as well, then firing squad.|
|Florida||Prisoners may choose lethal injection or electrocution.|
|South Carolina||Prisoners may choose lethal injection or electrocution.|
|Virginia||Prisoners may choose lethal injection or electrocution.|
Southern states have overwhelmingly executed the most people
The South has been home to the vast majority of executions since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in the early 1970s. Since 1972, 1,116 of the 1,366 executions that took place in the United States have happened in Southern states. More than half of the 39 executions that took place in 2013 happened in Texas and Florida.
Just six states — Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri and Alabama — accounted for two-thirds of all executions.
The animation above is based on an interactive map produced by the Pew Research Center based on data collected by the DPIC.