Since the Supreme Court restored the death penalty 30 years ago, 1,029 killers have been executed. Geography has had much to do with a murderer’s fate, says the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Southern states have executed 81 percent of the national total since 1976. Nearly half have been in just two states: Texas with 368 and Virginia with 95.
Reasons for the death penalty’s Southern accent and its implications are as contentious as nearly everything else about society’s ultimate sanction. The number of executions have dropped in Texas and Virginia, and death sentences are down in both states. Nationally, there has been a 60 percent drop in death sentences since 1999. Christopher Waldrep, an American history professor at San Francisco State University, cites the Southern tradition of lynching. “It really all comes down to retribution, and that is the same imperative that animated lynchers,” Waldrep said. “It’s an important point that the same region of the country that led the nation in lynchings now leads in executions.” Lisa Lindquist Dorr, a University of Alabama history professor, suggested hat the use of the death penalty in the South might be an outgrowth of a historical focus on honor and retribution.