Federal government executed more prisoners in 2020 than all states combined: research

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The federal government executed more prisoners in 2020 than all of the states that still carry out the death penalty combined, according to a new study released Wednesday.

This year marked the first in history in which Washington oversaw more executions than every state in the union.

The Justice Department (DOJ) this year oversaw a ramp-up in federal executions after a 17-year break, executing 10 prisoners in 2020 compared with seven by states that still employ capital punishment, according to a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). 

The coronavirus pandemic and a wave of public sentiment curtailed the number of executions states carried out. The seven this year represented a drop from 22 in 2019. The report said of the seven executions, three occurred in Texas, and one each was recorded in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee. 

The federal government also has three more executions scheduled before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Among them is Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row who was convicted of killing a pregnant woman in 2004 and cutting the baby from her womb. She would be the first woman executed in about 60 years. 

“At the end of the year, more states and counties had moved to end or reduce death-penalty usage, fewer new death sentences were imposed than in any prior year since capital punishment resumed in the U.S. in 1970s, and states carried out fewer executions than at any time in the past 37 years,” said Robert Dunham, DPIC’s executive director. 

“What was happening in the rest of the country showed that the administration’s policies were not just out of step with the historical practices of previous presidents, they were also completely out of step with today’s state practices,” he added.

Attorney General William Barr first announced in 2019 that the DOJ would resume capital punishment following a decline over the last decade in executions. Public opinion has increased against the practice in recent years over concerns that capital punishment disproportionately impacts African Americans. 

The DPIC report cites a Gallup poll from this year showing 43 percent of respondents oppose the death penalty, the highest figure in the poll since 1966.

Biden has said he opposes the death penalty and said during his campaign he’d work to pass legislation to eliminate the federal use of capital punishment.

Tags Capital punishment debate in the United States Capital punishment in the United States Donald Trump Joe Biden William Barr

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