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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Death Penalty Sentences Concentrated to a Few Counties in the U.S.

twopercent1According the the Death Penalty Information Center’s recent report, “Death Sentences Drop in Three High-Use Counties As Prosecutors Change,” as of 2013, 56 percent of death sentences were given out in only 2 percent of U.S. counties. However, due to recent District Attorney changes in three counties that were included in that 2 percent, the number of annual death sentences is noticeably declining.  The three counties highlighted in this report from DPIC are Harris County, Texas, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, and Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. Since the DA changes, Harris County went from 12 death sentences per year to just 1 per year. Oklahoma County went from more than 2 death sentences a year to only 3 in the past 6 years. And Philadelphia County went from more than 9 death sentences per year to only 3 in the past 5 years. The report stresses the impact that individual prosecutors have had in these “high-use” counties.

Watch the 2013 video, created by the DPIC, below explaining how 2 percent of counties produce the majority of death sentences in the U.S.

To read “Death Sentences Drop in Three High-Use Counties As Prosecutors Change” click here.

To read “Why Three Counties That Loved the Death Penalty Have Almost Stopped Pursuing It,” from the Marshall Project, click here.

To read the 2013 executive summary of the report “How a Minority of Counties Produce Most Cases at Enormous Cost to All” click here.