Using the Database

About These Data

To understand why death sentences had been declining so rapidly in the United States and what we could learn from this remarkable trend, these data were assembled for the time period from 1990 to present. All of the information contained on this website is publicly available, and was gathered from government records, court rulings, data collected by public defenders, and data collected and published by other researchers.

There was no list of who has been sentenced to death and in which counties over the past few decades. The Bureau of Justice Statistics at the Department of Justice collects aggregate numbers of people sentenced to death in each state and in each year, which is invaluable, but those data do not identify particular people sentenced or county-level information. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund publishes detailed reports of who is on death row, based on lists drawn from state corrections departments, but similarly those reports do not include county-level information or dates of the death sentences. Since there were not adequate data that would allow one to study county-level patterns during the crucial time period during which death sentencing began its decline, I collected the data with the help of a remarkable team of students. These data also include data shared by Rob Smith, collected for the years 2004 to 2014. In “End of its Rope,” the acknowledgements thank a long roster of lawyers, capital offices, and scholars who generously shared data concerning death sentences in particular states. Their contributions were invaluable to ensure that these data were as complete and as accurate as possible. As new death sentences occur, these data will be updated over time.

The spreadsheet on this resource website, makes information about death sentences available by name of defendant, state, county, year of sentence, and also includes information about the race of the defendant, whether this was the first or a subsequent death sentence, and whether the person has been executed. In the future, we hope to add additional information concern the status of appeals, post-conviction remedies, and whether the person remains on death row or not.

To promote access and reuse of the database, which may be subject to limited copyright protection or other legal protections, we have licensed the data for free public use under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License . Please attribute the database as indicated below. For permission to make commercial uses not covered by the license or a relevant legal provision (such as fair use), please contact us.

Please cite to this resource collection as:

Brandon L. Garrett, End of its Rope: Death Sentencing Data, Duke University School of Law, at