In the United States, death-row inmates generally spend more than a decade awaiting execution. Some inmates have been on death row for more than 20 years. A few have died of natural causes or been released from prison during that time.
The longest-serving death row inmate is currently Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was sentenced to die for murdering an Alabama police officer. He has been on death row since 1991.
The average length of incarceration for those who survive their executions is about 12 years.
Death-row inmates tend to be killed by lethal injection or a bullet to the head. If they are still alive after 30 minutes, they are usually executed by hanging.
Since 1977, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled capital punishment constitutional, more than 700 people have been put to death. About 300 of these were executed in the next 20 years. Only 92 deaths occurred after this ruling.
The number of people on death rows around the world sits at approximately 7,000. Of these, two-thirds are men and one-third are women. The average age of death-row inmates is 36 years old. Half of all inmates on death rows are under 40.
Capital punishment is legal in only 32 countries.
Between sentencing and execution, a death row convict spent an average of 178 months (approximately 15 years) in 2010. Almost a quarter of death row convicts in the United States die of natural causes while awaiting execution. There were 2,721 persons on death row in the United States on October 1, 2018. Of these, 712 had been there for more than 10 years.
The median survival time on death row is only four years. However, some men have been able to overturn their convictions or get new trials based on evidence of wrongful conviction; others have had their sentences reduced to life without parole. This varies by state law, but many prisoners hope to be released on parole or even granted an actual release after several decades on death row.
In 2004, there were 9,175 inmates held in U.S. prisons who were sentenced to death. Since then, several men have been exonerated through DNA testing. At least 33 others likely served wrongfully because of conflicting eyewitness testimony.
Thus, the average number of people on death row is actually lower than 2,721, since some have been there for much longer than 15 years and some states do not report how long they expect those people to remain on death row. According to current estimates, then, there are around 2,220 people currently on death row in the United States.
Due to the extensive and time-consuming appeals procedures established by the jurisdiction, convicts in the United States may have to wait several years before their execution may take place. The longest post-conviction detention in US history was filed by Albert Woodfox and Jean Pierre Broussard, who were convicted in 1970 of murdering a prison guard during an escape attempt. They denied the murder for nearly 40 years before a third party confessed. The men were not released until after former President George W. Bush commuted their sentences.
The shortest post-conviction detention on record was that of Joseph Hill, who was executed on January 25, 2013, less than 24 hours after his final appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court.
Death sentences are particularly likely to be appealed. Of the 1092 people sentenced to die between 1976 and 1995, 100% had their sentences reversed or reduced on appeal.
The longest post-sentencing delay without reversal of a conviction or death sentence was 21 years, which occurred between Richard Coia and Robert Harris. In 1978, they were found guilty of fatally shooting two police officers during a robbery attempt. They died before their sentences could be carried out. In 1999, the case was reopened when new evidence came to light.
In 2019, convicts on death row in the United States waited an average of 264 months between sentencing and execution. This is an increase from 1990, when the average time between sentencing and execution was 95 months. The longest-serving inmate is currently on death row in Florida; he has been since 1989. His name is Richard Cooey and he has been waiting for his sentence to be carried out since then.
The shortest time between sentencing and execution is 58 months. This man was executed in Missouri in February 2019.
It may appear that people are being executed faster today than before, but a greater number of executions means that there will be more cases like this one. Between 1980 and 2018, the total number of people who have been executed in the United States has increased by 89%, while the number of executions per year has increased by 150%.
In conclusion, the average wait time on death row is high because there are so many prisoners on death row and because there are so many appeals that can be filed.
From 1990 to 2019, the time elapsed between sentencing and execution in the United States.
The most recent case of a convicted murderer being executed in the United States was that of Dean Corll in 1989. Corll killed and dismembered several young boys before police discovered his body. Before he could be executed, however, new evidence emerged showing that he had made confession after confession after his arrest. The state of Texas decided not to retry him, instead opting to set an example by carrying out his sentence.
In addition to Dean Corll, the following people were also sentenced to die but eventually commuted to life imprisonment: James Douglas Davis, Charles Stephen Dean, Joseph Paul Franklin, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and Thomas Arthur Young.
All those on death row have had their sentences reversed or commuted to life imprisonment. Two men are currently serving lethal injections in the United States: William Henry Landreneau and Bruce Michael Richard. Both men have been denied appeals as their executions date near. Landreneau is scheduled to die on January 20th 2020, while Richard will be put to death on April 24th.
Prisoners have been on death row for so long because they have exhausted all of their possible appeals and petitions for clemency, as well as all other legal channels available to them. And the appeals procedure is lengthy, frequently lasting several years. The first appeal is automatic in many states. If that fails, the prisoner can appeal to the Supreme Court of their state. Some prisoners choose to file a second appeal even after having won their first petition for clemency or writ of habeas corpus. This is most common with regard to sentences of life without parole, which require a further appeal beyond those granted by governors' grants of executive pardons.
Once executed, additional delays often occur before the body can be cremated or buried. In some cases, families may agree to an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Other reasons why bodies are not released immediately include the need to conduct toxicology tests to determine if drugs were involved in the crime; test results cannot be completed in time to release the body. Even when there is no scientific reason for keeping the body, local laws may prohibit its release until certain fees have been paid. For example, in Florida, the cost of holding a body must be paid before it can be released.
The average time between conviction and execution is about three years. However, some people on death row die much later, sometimes decades after their sentence was finalized.