9 Out of 10 Counties, Zero Death Sentences Since 2004

What makes a punishment “unusual?” The 8th Amendment to the Constitution bans “cruel and unusual” punishments, and the Supreme Court in recent years has suggested that a punishment becomes unusual when few states have it in their laws, or, if laws are still on the books, when few jurisdictions choose to actually use the punishment

So what do we make of the fact that since 2004, only 10% of US counties have actually passed a death sentence?  That’s the bottom line of a new set of maps (presented on the Second Class Justice blog) which illustrate US death sentences by county from the years 2004-2009.  Counties are where US death sentencing happens (aside from federal death sentences).  If 9 out of 10 counties have not issued a death sentence in 5 years, does that make the death penalty unusual?

One of the reasons the high Court struck down capital punishment as “cruel and unusual” back in 1972 was its inconsistent and arbitrary application.  “…[C]ruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual,” the Court said.  In reinstating the death penalty, the Court insisted that death sentences be limited to the “worst of the worst.”  But that hasn’t happened.  Instead, death sentences, like real estate, are all about location, location, location.

And the maps reveal that the prime real estate for death sentences is no longer in Texas or other parts of the Old South.  In recent years, the most enthusiastic death sentencing counties have been further west, in California and Arizona.  (These same states, incidentally, are currently embroiled in a controversy over whether or not they acquired execution drugs illegally.)

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12 thoughts on “9 Out of 10 Counties, Zero Death Sentences Since 2004

  1. "If 9 out of 10 counties have not issued a death sentence in 5 years, does that make the death penalty unusual?"

    No – It makes it rarely used AS IT SHOULD BE.

    You advocate against the death penalty, but use a statistic that it WASN'T used in 9 out of 10 counties over the last 5 years to try to support your argument? "unusual". Using this logic, would the death penalty be more acceptable to you if more of the other 9 counties had more capital punishment cases?

    Hmmmm

    What is "unusual" is mass-murdering, brutally torturing, child rapists.

    Well the important thing is Brandon Rhodes and a handful of your other causes are no longer sucking oxygen.

    But hey, pretty neat MAP.

  2. “If 9 out of 10 counties have not issued a death sentence in 5 years, does that make the death penalty unusual?”

    No – It makes it rarely used AS IT SHOULD BE.

    You advocate against the death penalty, but use a statistic that it WASN’T used in 9 out of 10 counties over the last 5 years to try to support your argument? “unusual”. Using this logic, would the death penalty be more acceptable to you if more of the other 9 counties had more capital punishment cases?

    Hmmmm

    What is “unusual” is mass-murdering, brutally torturing, child rapists.

    Well the important thing is Brandon Rhodes and a handful of your other causes are no longer sucking oxygen.

    But hey, pretty neat MAP.

  3. Well, it seems that Brian the Death Penalty Supporter never cared about Brandon Rhodes' mental conditions and never believes that keeping a death row inmate like him alive only to kill him again regardless of mental problems or innocence is disgusting, but only cares for bleeding crowds and for those who say they support social injustices and the death penalty. The death penalty only preys on the fears of people and of the victims' families. As they say, "Easy to be hard, easy to be cold, easy to be cruel" and "Easy to say no" to clemency and to death row inmates.

  4. Well, it seems that Brian the Death Penalty Supporter never cared about Brandon Rhodes’ mental conditions and never believes that keeping a death row inmate like him alive only to kill him again regardless of mental problems or innocence is disgusting, but only cares for bleeding crowds and for those who say they support social injustices and the death penalty. The death penalty only preys on the fears of people and of the victims’ families. As they say, “Easy to be hard, easy to be cold, easy to be cruel” and “Easy to say no” to clemency and to death row inmates.