Just 10 U.S. Counties Account For 1/4 Of Executions Since 1976


Just 10 U.S. counties—roughly 0.3 percent of the nation’s total—account for more than a quarter of all the executions that have been carried out since 1976, reports the National Journal. Texas’s Harris County, which includes Houston, is far and away the leader in executions during that period. That district has handed out 122 death sentences that were carried to completion, more than double the next highest. Harris County alone is responsible for more executions than any state besides Texas. Dallas County, which includes the Dallas-Fort Worth area, comes in second at 53. While a tiny portion of counties are responsible for a large share of executions since 1976, 85 percent of counties—including a majority of those in Texas—have not been responsible for any executions in the last 40 years.

Death-penalty opponents note discrepancies that are uncorrelated with state laws or county sizes. “To take on a death-penalty case, that’s a multiyear commitment of a million dollars or more,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “If you’re in Houston, there are 200 attorneys in the D.A.’s office, at least. They can do a lot of death-penalty cases.” At the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, which defends capital punishment, Kent Scheidegger says, “The reason we elect our prosecutors locally is that we can have that sort of influence.” He says those with disproportionately low, not high, numbers of executions are problematic. “There are places where the death penalty is not imposed enough.”

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