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Executions Report Issued

Eleven states executed 23 people last year, the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced on September 29th. The Bureau said as of December 31, 1990, there were 2,356 people being held on death row in 34 states. Between 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, and last December 31, there had been 143 executions by 16 states.

According to the Bureau's annual capital punishment survey, 244 persons received death sentences throughout the U.S. last year, and 101 persons who had been previously sentenced to death had those sentences vacated by appellate or higher court decisions. Seven death row inmates died during the year. The number of persons under sentence of death at year-end was five percent higher than at the end of 1989.

"Since the Supreme Court's decision in 1976 there have been 3,834 persons who have been under a death sentence, " said Steven Killingham, bureau director. "The 143 persons executed represent 3.7 percent of those defendants who were at risk of being executed during the period," he noted.

All of the death row inmates being held last December 31 had been convicted of a murder. This population was 58.4 percent white, 40 percent black, one percent Native American and 0.6 percent Asian American. The 172 Hispanic prisoners accounted for 7.3 percent of the total. Thirty-two (or 1.4 percent) were female. Their median age was 34 years old.

Those put to death last year had spent an average of seven years and 11 month awaiting execution. Among those awaiting executions as of last December 31, the median time on death row was four years and eight months.

Texas had the largest number on death row - 320 such inmates. Florida had 299, California 280, Illinois 128 and Pennsylvania 121. About 58 percent of the total were held in the South, 21 percent in the West, 15 percent in the Midwest and six percent in the Northeast. As of December 31, 36 states and the federal government authorized capital punishment.

Since 1930, when the federal government first began keeping such statistics, there have been 4,002 state and federal executions under civil authority in the U.S. The most were in Georgia (380), Texas (334), New York (329), California (292) North Carolina (266) and Florida (191). Wisconsin, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Maine, Hawaii and Alaska had no executions during this period.

Single copies of the BJS Bulletin Capital Punishment, 1990 (NCJ-131648) can be ordered from the Criminal Justice Reference Service, Box 6000, Rockville, MD 20850. From: Corrections Digest

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