The death penalty in the Americas in 2009

Since Cuba stopped carrying out executions in 2003 (commuting the sentences of the majority of death row prisoners), the USA has been the only country in the Americas to carry out executions with the exception of St Kitts and Nevis, which executed one person in 2008.

Fifty-two executions were known to be carried out in the United States as follows: Texas (24), Alabama (6), Ohio (5), Georgia (3), Oklahoma (3), Virginia (3), Florida (2), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (2), Indiana (1) and Missouri (1).

At least 123 death sentences were known to have been imposed in five countries in the Americas: Bahamas (at least 2), Guyana (3), Jamaica (2), Trinidad and Tobago (at least 11) and USA (at least 105).

Trinidad and Tobago issued one death warrant but the execution was stayed by the courts. Debate around the death penalty continued in many of the Caribbean nations with widespread public support for the resumption of hanging.

Despite continuing to carry out executions, the USA is showing some signs of turning against the death penalty. Although the 52 executions during the year was the highest total for three years, it was still only about half the number (98) executed a decade earlier in 1999. It also reflected the first full year of executions as the US Supreme Court stayed all executions for periods of 2007 and 2008 while it considered the constitutionality of lethal injection. A minority of states continue to account for a majority of executions.

In March, New Mexico became the 15th state to end the death penalty when the state governor signed a new law. Abolitionist bills were considered in a number of other states and may make further progress in future legislative sessions.

Evidence of the risk of wrongful convictions in capital cases continues to emerge and feed into the debate about the death penalty in the USA. Nine men who had been sentenced to death were exonerated and freed in 2009.


Death sentences and executions 2009