Arbitrary as Ever (Part II): 85% of Counties Have Not Sentenced to Death A Single Person Who Has Been Executed Since 1976.

The chief complaint in Furman centered on the inability to distinguish between those who received a death sentence and those who were eligible but did not. The distribution of executions since the death penalty resumed in the 1976 speaks loudly to the lack of any rational connection between those who commit murder who are  then sentenced to death and executed from those who commit murder but are never executed.

A database of every execution since 1976 (paper here), compiled by Frank Baumgartner, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, demonstrates that even among the handful of counties in the United States with active death penalties, few counties have sentenced anyone to death who has been executed.  85%  of the counties in the United States have not executed anyone since 1976.  Only 454 counties (14 percent) have ever carried out an execution since 1976.  Indeed, only 50 counties (1.6 percent of the total) have executed more than 5 individuals in the entire modern period of capital punishment, a rate that works out to just one per seven years. Five counties are responsible for a disproportionate number of the 1231 executions that have been carried out since 1976 (as of Oct. 28, 2010).  Four of these five counties are in Texas.  One, Harris County (Houston) has carried out more executions – 115 - than any state except Texas itself.  The only state other than Texas that has executed more than 100 is Virginia with 108.  Texas has executed over 460 people since 1976 and has over 330 people on its death row awaiting execution.

115 TX Harris
44 TX Dallas
36 OK Oklahoma
34 TX Tarrant
31 TX Bexar

The following maps provide a more complete picture.

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