Punishment by Death

July 17, 1963

Report Outline
Decline in Resort to Capital Punishment
Capital Punishment in Foreign Countries
Punishment by Death: Points in Dispute

Decline in Resort to Capital Punishment

Execution as punishment for crime is becoming increasingly rare in the United States. During the past two decades, disuse of the death penalty has virtually abolished capital punishment in many states in which the law still allows it. Yet the debate between opponents and defenders of punishment by death continues unabated.

Public attention has been focused on the problem in recent years by a few sensational cases: The gas-chamber death in California in 1960 of Caryl W. Chessman, rapist-kidnaper-author whose legal maneuvers delayed his execution for almost 12 years; the commutation last August in Illinois of the death sentence imposed on Paul Crump, a convicted murderer who, like Chessman, turned to writing while in prison; and the hanging in Israel at the end of May 1962 of former Nazi Col. Adolf Eichmann for World War II crimes against European Jews.

Continuing Reduction in Number of Executions

The number of executions in this country rose to 47 last year from a low of 42 in 1961. The 1962 total, however, was still the next to lowest since the U.S. Bureau of Prisons started compiling detailed statistics in 1930. As many as 199 persons—peak number for the past three decades—were executed in the United States in 1935. Last year's executions were carried out in 18 of the 44 jurisdictions having laws providing for capital punishment; there were executions in only 11 of those jurisdictions in 1961.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Death Penalty
Nov. 19, 2010  Death Penalty Debates
Sep. 23, 2005  Death Penalty Controversies
Nov. 16, 2001  Rethinking the Death Penalty
Jan. 08, 1999  Death Penalty Update
Mar. 10, 1995  Death Penalty Debate
Jul. 13, 1990  Death Penalty Debate Centers on Retribution
Jan. 18, 1985  Emptying Death Row: More U.S. Executions
Jan. 10, 1973  Death Penalty Revival
Jul. 17, 1963  Punishment by Death
Aug. 14, 1953  Death Penalty
Feb. 16, 1943  Treason
Jun. 21, 1927  The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti
Death Penalty
Domestic Issues