The drawn-out execution of Joseph Wood on Wednesday in Arizona, renewed scrutiny of the use of the death penalty in the United States.Using data from the Death Penalty Information Center, we looked at how the death penalty has been both sentenced and applied since the Supreme Court reintroduced it in the 1970s. And, in short, both sentences and actual executions have declined along with the crime rate.
Note the trend: Crime peaked in the early 1990s; death sentences, a few years later. Executions peaked in 1999.
But the other lesson from Arizona and and the high-profile botched execution in Oklahoma earlier this year is that the death penalty sentencing and the actual carrying out of that sentence varies widely on a state-by-state basis. We took state data on sentencing and executions over time and animated them, providing a look at how each state has dealt with the punishment since it became legal. Texas is something of an aberration.
But as the Death Penalty Information Center notes, Texas hasn't been the most thorough about carrying out its executions. No state has a higher ratio of death sentences-to-executions than Virginia, which has put to death about 7 of every 10 people it has sentenced to die. Arizona is in the middle of the pack.