This site contains a summary of every case in which a death sentence was imposed in the United States from 2004 through the most recent year for which information is available. These summaries have been compiled by Professor David McCord of Drake University Law School and his diligent research assistants over the years. These summaries comprise, as far as we know, the only such compilation available anywhere.
Compiling these summaries is labor-intensive. First, we compare the more than 3000 names of death row prisoners in most recent issue of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Death Row USA—typically issued quarterly—with the names in the preceding issue. This name-by-name comparison yields a list of newly death-sentenced defendants in death rows across the country, as well as defendants whose death sentences have been re-imposed after an earlier sentence was reversed on appeal. Next, we run Web-based searches for information sources that set forth the details of each case. Finally, we write a summary for each case based on these sources. Most summaries are based on several sources; a few summaries are based on only one source; and in a very few cases we were able to find little more than the defendant’s name and the state and county in which the sentence was imposed. In short, we do the best we can with the information we can find.
Please note that this site does not keep track of whether these death-sentenced defendants remain under a death sentence at later points in time. While most of these defendants continue to be under death sentences, some are no longer under death sentences because they been executed, or died in prison, or had their convictions or sentences reversed and not re-imposed.
Thirty-two states, plus the federal government and the military, have the death penalty. Eighteen states do not have the death penalty going forward (although three of them abolished only prospectively and still have inmates on death row): Alaska, Connecticut (abolished prospectively in 2012, but still has persons on death row), Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland (abolished prospectively in 2013, but still has persons on death row), Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico (abolished prospectively in 2009, but still has persons on death row), New York (has a capital punishment statute, but has been ruled unconstitutional by the New York Appellate Court and not changed by legislature) , North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Also note that these summaries contain defendants sentenced to death in Illinois and New Jersey whose sentences were later commuted when those jurisdictions abolished the death penalty both prospectively and retroactively.
The summaries of the death sentences were often created by Professor McCord’s research assistants, especially Daniel Herting (2009), Eston Whiteside (2010 and 2012), Zachary Engstrom (2011), Thomas Tolbert (2014), Cedric Adams (2014 and 2015), and Danielle Holmes (2015). Professor McCord’s Administrative Assistant Debra Booth assisted in creating the 2013 summaries.
This website is maintained by Professor McCord’s research assistant, Danielle Holmes.