Death Penalty in the States and the Federal Government Essay

Statistics indicate that by the year 2008, 37 states had sanctioned the death penalty, the military and the Federal Government. However, there exists a number of states that do not condone the death penalty. They are 13 in number along with the District of Columbia. The question is, who is guilty of the death penalty? Essentially, it is persons who have been convicted of murder (Rogers, 2008).

The death penalty was re-enacted in the year 1977 in the U.S. Since then, only persons who have been found guilty of murder by a jury in a court of law have been executed. As noted, it is not all the states that regard the death penalty as legal. The federal government is permitted to enforce the death penalty for various crimes. Statistics indicate that between the years 1967 and 1997, only one execution was undertaken out of every 1,600 crimes involving murder. They also go on to indicate that, out of every 8,000 convictions, less than 120 are charged with the death sentence (Rogers, 2008).

Federal crimes are used to enact the death penalty by the federal government. Federal crimes include; espionage, treason, drug trafficking, just to name but a few. Similarly to what happened in the states, the federal government did not enact the death penalty for ten years, 1967-1977. It was during a time when the Supreme Court was deliberating on the legality of the death penalty. In 1988, the death penalty was re-enacted and only 3 executions have been undertaken since then. Just like the governors have the authority to grant clemency in death penalty cases, so does the president. In spite of the uniformity in the federal death penalty, states differ in their enactment of the penalty. For example, the Supreme Court in Nebraska nullified the utilization of the electric chair as a means of execution in the year 2008. The New York Supreme Court also nullified the death penalty in the year 2004. Hence, these states in reality have no death penalty (Rogers, 2008).


Rogers, A. (2008). State Constitutionalism and the Death Penalty. Journal of Policy History, 20(1), 143-156.