2 Percent of U.S. Counties Account for Most of America’s Executions

And the top two counties are both in Texas.

The 'death chamber' at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit in Huntsville, Texas, February 29, 2000. 
National Journal
Dustin Volz
See more stories about...
Dustin Volz
Oct. 2, 2013, 11:32 a.m.

Death-pen­alty op­pon­ents may have an­oth­er talk­ing point to add to their grow­ing list of griev­ances about cap­it­al pun­ish­ment: Just 2 per­cent of U.S. counties ac­count for most of the coun­try’s death row pop­u­la­tion and ex­e­cu­tions, ac­cord­ing to a study re­leased today by the Death Pen­alty In­form­a­tion Cen­ter.

Through last year, 62 counties — or about 2 per­cent of the na­tion’s 3,143 — have ex­ecuted 685 death-row in­mates, or 52 per­cent, of the 1,320 total in the U.S. since cap­it­al pun­ish­ment was re­in­stated in 1976. Texas’s Har­ris County, which com­prises Hou­s­ton, led all counties with 115 ex­e­cu­tions. Dal­las County was second with 50.

“The death pen­alty in prac­tice has proved to be ad­min­istered un­fairly, and this is an­oth­er ex­ample of that,” Richard Di­eter, DPIC’s ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or, told Na­tion­al Journ­al. “The the­ory is the worst of the worst get the death pen­alty, but the real­ity is those that do are in high urb­an cit­ies where pro­sec­utors have lots of re­sources.”

Death-pen­alty de­bates of­ten get re­duced to a break­down of which states still ex­ecute (32) and which don’t (18). It’s gen­er­ally known that a hand­ful of states such as Texas, Flor­ida, and Ohio carry out the ma­jor­ity of ex­e­cu­tions, but the county-by-county break­down, like one might find in an ana­lys­is of pres­id­en­tial elec­tions, provides more in­sight on the geo­graph­ic­ally small foot­print of cap­it­al pun­ish­ment in the U.S.

Eighty-five per­cent of counties, in­clud­ing a ma­jor­ity in Texas, have not had an ex­e­cu­tion in 40 years. Four of 254 counties in Texas have amassed about half of all the state’s ex­e­cu­tions.

And while a small per­cent­age of counties are car­ry­ing out the bulk of ex­e­cu­tions, the eco­nom­ic bur­dens of the death pen­alty are shared by tax­pay­ers across the state. The re­port con­cludes:

This pe­cu­li­ar ex­er­cise of dis­cre­tion res­ults in enorm­ous ex­penses be­ing passed on to tax­pay­ers across the state. Moreover, the cor­rel­a­tion between the high use of the death pen­alty and a high rate of er­ror means that courts in these states will be oc­cu­pied for years with costly ap­peals and re­tri­als. Some states have re­cently chosen to opt out of this pro­cess, at great sav­ings to their tax­pay­ers.

The un­even con­cen­tra­tion of death-row in­mates and ex­e­cu­tions does not ap­pear to be abat­ing; if any­thing, it’s get­ting worse. Nine counties were re­spons­ible for 35 per­cent of death sen­tences in the U.S. last year, and 10 ac­coun­ted for 27 per­cent of all death row in­mates at the start of 2013.

Twenty-eight people have been ex­ecuted this year, com­pared with 43 in 2012 and 2011, and a re­cord-high 98 in 1999.

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
3 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
7 REPUBLICANS ON STAGE
Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
2 days ago
THE LATEST

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.

Source:
×