Shocking Stats about the death penalty

12/14/2023

The death penalty carries the inherent risk of executing an innocent person. Since 1973, at least 195 people who had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in the U.S. have been exonerated.

For every 8.3 people executed in the U.S. since the 1970s, one person who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death has been exonerated.*

On average, an exonerated death row survivor spends 11.5 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit. Exonerees proven to have been wrongfully convicted through post-conviction DNA testing spend, on average, more than 14 years behind bars. But the suffering doesn't end once the innocent are released.

"It is now clear that innocent defendants will be convicted and sentenced to death with some regularity as long as the death penalty exists. It is unlikely that the appeals process—which is mainly focused on legal errors and not on factual determinations—will catch all the mistakes. Reforms have been begrudgingly implemented, increasing both the costs and the time that the death penalty consumes, but have not been sufficient to overcome human error. The popularity and use of capital punishment have rapidly declined as the innocence issue has gained attention. The remaining question is how many innocent lives are worth sacrificing to preserve this punishment. "[i]

*This doesn't even account for the innocent people whom we have actually executed, whose number is unknown.


[i] https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/policy-issues/innocence