South Dakota

With a population under one million, South Dakota does not have a history of executing large numbers of prisoners.

The state abolished the penalty for the first time in 1915.

To highlight the Old West style of justice executions can represent, the first person executed by the state of South Dakota was the man who killed Wild Bill Hickok in 1877.

From 1877 to 1913 the state executed 14 prisoners all by hanging. There was one execution by electric chair in 1947. From 2007 to 2012 there were 3 executions all by lethal injection.

There are currently 3 prisoners on South Dakota’s death row.

One prisoner Charles Rhines is fighting his sentence because he believes he was sent to his death by a homophobic jury. 

Spark a dialogue for change! Let your government representative know how you feel about South Dakota’s  use of the death penalty.

For more information support South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty at


South Carolina

After focusing on death penalty states with a governor moratorium on executions: Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington, we are returning to our run down of death penalty states. Next on our list is South Carolina.

South Carolina executed 43 people between 1985 and 2011. The method of execution is lethal injection, and the electric chair which was last used in 2008.

From 1608 to 1976 the state executed 641 prisoners.

Today’s death row population is 41.

According to the South Carolina Department of Corrections the youngest person executed in state history was 14. The young boy, George Stinney Jr., was executed in 1944 and exonerated in 2014.

In the recent controversial case of multiple murderer Todd Kohlhepp, the serial killer was spared the death penalty in exchange for a guilty plea and life sentences because in the words of the case’s prosecutor, the state,“doesn’t have a functioning death penalty.”

Governor Henry McMaster is nevertheless a death penalty supporter, and has said, “In order for us to proceed with justice in South Carolina, we must be able to carry out what the law has mandated.”

McMaster is even a fan of shield laws, enacted to allow distributors of death penalty drugs to remain anonymous.

Let Governor Henry McMaster know how your thought on justice, and South Carolina’s use of the death penalty!





The Honorable Henry McMaster
State House
1100 Gervais Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29201



Washington State

Washington is a death penalty state, with a current governor moratorium.

In 2014 Governor Jay Inslee, a former supporter of the death penalty, declared a moratorium on executions stating that any death penalty cases advanced to his offices would receive a reprieve. The governor hoped his decision would open up a necessary dialogue on the issue.

Governor Inslee said of the penalty, “There are too many flaws in the system. And when the ultimate decision is death, there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.”

On a recent vote to end the death penalty in the The Pacific Northwest states the governor commented, “When I put a moratorium on the use of capital punishment in 2014, I hoped it would create space for a discussion about the unequal application of this law, the enormous costs of seeking this punishment and the uncertainty of closure for victims’ families. I hope Washington joins the growing number of states that are choosing to end the death penalty.”

From 1902 to 1963 Washington executed 105 prisoners. From 1993 to 2010 the state executed 5 prisoners. The present death row population is 8 prisoners.

Washington is the only state where hanging is used as a method of execution. (Prisoners have the option to choose hanging or lethal injection.)

A recent repeal effort was unsuccessful, but there is hope that Washington can join with other states that have banned the practice.

Let Governor Inslee know that you support his moratorium and would like to see an end to the death penalty in Washington state!




Governor Jay Inslee
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002







Pennsylvania is a death penalty state with a current moratorium on executions.

From 1608 to 1976 the state executed 1040 prisoners. In the same time period only Virginia and New York State had more executions.

From 1976 to 1999 Pennsylvania executed 3 prisoners. All 3  were volunteers.

Today the death row population is 169 prisoners.

In 2015 Governor Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on the death penalty that will remain in effect until he reviews a long awaited report from the the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Committee on Capital Punishment. Unlike states with similar task forces, he also wants time to address the findings of the report.

In his statement on the matter, Governor Wolf declared, “This moratorium is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes. This decision is based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust, and expensive.

“This unending cycle of death warrants and appeals diverts resources from the judicial system and forces the families and loved ones of victims to relive their tragedies each time a new round of warrants and appeals commences. The only certainty in the current system is that the process will be drawn out,expensive, and painful for all involved.”

Despite the moratorium, and the fact that many prisoners have languished on death row for decades Pennsylvania district attorneys continue to seek the penalty.

There has also been push back and challenges against the governor’s decision. In 2015 The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the governor’s right and constitutional authority to not sign off on putting prisoners to death.

The Department of Corrections continues to issue notices of execution. When these cases come up the governor grants a temporary reprieve.

Does this waiting game really serve the people of Pennsylvania? Can the recommendations of a well-meaning task force to anything to “fix” a broken system?

Consider sharing your thoughts with Governor Wolf.



Office of the Governor
508 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120







While there is a current governor moratorium on executions, Oregon continues to be a death penalty state.

From 1608 to 1976 there were 122 executions in Oregon. The last two executions in the state were in 1996 and 1997.

Until 1903 executions were public.

Oregon has abolished the death penalty twice in state history by popular vote, first in 1914, and again in 1964.

There are currently 34 prisoners on Oregon’s death row.

In November 2011 Governor John Kitzhaber announced a moratorium on executions. The moratorium has been continued by his successor Governor Kate Brown.

Governor Kitzhaber put the moratorium in place to stop the execution of a volunteer after overseeing the execution of two previous volunteers. (Gary Gilmore is the most famous example of a volunteer: a prisoner who waives or terminates the appeal process before all appeals are exhausted.)

Governor Kitzhaber has said of the death penalty, “In my mind, it is a perversion of justice. I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer and I will not allow further executions while I am governor.” He also says of the penalty that it, “fails to meet basic standards of justice.”

On the executions he participated in Governor Kitzhaber said, “I do not believe those executions made us safer. Certainly I don’t believe they made us nobler as a society. And I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong.”

Governor Brown, after taking office said, “There needs to be a broader discussion about fixing the system.”

Let Governor Brown know that the time for this conversation is now. Contact Governor Brown and ask her what she plans to do about the death penalty in Oregon.


(503) 378-4582



Office of the Governor
900 Court Street NE, Suite 254
Salem, OR 97301-4047






Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington. What do these four states have in common? All four are death penalty states, but in each state there is a governor moratorium on executions.


As early as 1897 Colorado first abolished the death penalty. In 2009 a bill to abolish the death penalty failed by one vote.

According to the Death Penalty Information Centre, the 2009 bill including earmarking death penalty prosecution funding to instead go towards cold case murder investigation. The money could have been used toward solving over 1000 cases, and staffing an office to do so.

From 1859 to 1976 the state executed 101 prisoners. The last execution in Colorado was in 1997.

There are currently 3 prisoners on Colorado’s death row.

On May 22, 2013 Governor John Hickenlooper signed an Executive Order to give a temporary reprieve to one of the men on death row.

The Governor has said of death sentencing, “As Governor, I must either direct state employees to execute a human being, or I must exercise my constitutional authority to stop an execution. Both paths require an affirmative decision by me, and the prospect of either decision has been daunting. It has forced me to think of the issue in a personal way because it is on my conscience the decision will weigh. I am confident that most Coloradans – no matter what their views on the death penalty may be – will respect and understand the unique burden of this decision.”

In a press release Hickenlooper further clarified his position, and outlined the many considerations that led to his decision. “If the State of Colorado is going to undertake the responsibility of executing a human being, the system must operate flawlessly. Colorado’s system for capital punishment is not flawless. The inmates currently on death row have committed heinous crimes, but so have many others who are serving mandatory life sentences. … As one former Colorado judge said to us, ‘[The death penalty] is simply the result of happenstance, the district attorney’s choice, the jurisdiction in which the case is filed, perhaps the race or economic circumstance of the defendant.’”

It certainly must be a difficult decision to be the final word on whether or not a person lives or dies. While the governor’s stance is appreciated, Colorado still has a death row, and prisoners whose fates will be left up to a future governor.

Denver DA Beth McCann is a vocal opponent of the death penalty. She has promised to not to use the death penalty, and is a supporter of abolishing the practice. She has said, “I don’t think that the state should be in the business of killing people,” and that she would support repeal of the punishment.

Lucía Guzmán, the Minority Leader in the Colorado Senate, introduced a bill this February in a failed attempt to abolish the practice.

Get involved and show your support. Add your voice to the debate, and help end the death penalty in Colorado.

Resources for Colorado

ACLU Colorado

Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty Foundation




In the modern era Oklahoma has executed almost as many prisoners as it has in its entire state history.

From 1608 to 1976 there were 132 executions. From its first execution after reenactment in 1990 to 2015 Oklahoma executed  112 prisoners.

After Texas and Virginia, Oklahoma ranks third for the most US executions.

There were 52 executions under Governor Frank Keating, 40 executions under Governor Brad Henry, and so far 17 executions under Governor Mary Fallin.

Gov. Fallin has even refused clemency when it was recommended by the Pardon and Parole Board.

The death penalty wasn’t always so popular with Oklahoma governors.

In his administration Gov. Lee Cruce commuted 22 death sentences from 1911 to 1915.

Cruce said of the death penalty, it is, “not in keeping with the demands of modern, enlightened civilization,” and that by abolishing it, “a great service could be rendered to humanity.”

Right now 48 prisoners are condemned to death, and 10 innocent people have been released from death row after acquittals and dismissed charges.

In 1977 Oklahoma pioneered the use of lethal injection, becoming the first in the world to adopt the method of execution.

Now it wants to use another controversial, untested, untried, experimental method of asphyxiation by nitrogen gas. The state calls it IGH, inert gas inhalation.

The American Veterinary Medical Association  doesn’t use this procedure to euthanize animals. Mother Jones reports, “a 70 pound pig that inhaled nitrogen gas would take seven minutes to die.”

One high profile prisoner who would be among the next to die when Oklahoma gets the approval to use nitrogen gas would be Richard Glossip. His execution was called off at the last minute when it was discovered prison staff were about to execute him in error with the wrong combination of lethal injection drugs.

Glossip is believed by many to be innocent. He was sentenced to die for the murder for hire of his boss, and was convicted on the word of the actual killer who received a life sentence for his testimony against Glossip.

Let your voice be heard! Let the state of Oklahoma know that you don’t want the death penalty in the US, and you don’t want them to execute prisoners in your name with an untried experimental method.

Volunteer with a local death penalty group like the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.









From 1608 to 1976 Ohio executed 438 prisoners. From 1999 to its last execution last year the Rust Belt state executed 55 prisoners. Nine innocent people have been released from the state’s death row.

Ohio put a brief pause on executions after the painfully prolonged execution of  Dennis McGuire in 2014.

145 prisoners are currently condemned to death.

From this July into 2023 Ohio has over two dozen executions scheduled, including Romell Broom, who the state failed to kill in a horrifically botched execution. The state also wanted to have another try at executing Alva Campbell who also survived a botched execution, but he died of natural causes before the state got the chance.

The Fair Punishment Project reports that of those men scheduled to die many suffer from intellectual impairment, mental illness, and were victims of childhood violence and sexual abuse.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor appointed lawyers, judges, and other experts to the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty. The panel’s final report included dozens of recommendations to reform the troubled and broken system.

(Ohioans to Stop Executions has a comprehensive breakdown of the report’s recommendations.)

Today very little has been done to follow through on the task force’s recommendations, while Ohio continues to pursue executions at a reckless pace.

Help us end this inhumane practice.

Let Governor John Kasich know that  you do not support the death penalty in Ohio!








Governor's Office

77 S High St, Columbus, OH 43215, USA


North Carolina

Civil rights lawyer James Ferguson believes that, “When you really look at the evidence, it’s clear that race is influencing how we use the death penalty in North Carolina. This is a chance for the state’s highest court to declare, definitively, that racial bias in the death penalty is an urgent civil rights issue that cannot be swept under the rug.”

Mr. Ferguson was arguing for re-sentencing in a death penalty case because of  systematic issues like racial bias in testimony and jury selection.

There is an obvious racial disparity on the the state’s death row, where over 50% of the prisoners are black, where the black population in the state is 22%.

In 2009 the Racial Justice Act was passed, but it was repealed in 2013.

From 1984 to 2006 North Carolina executed 43 people. Between 1608 to 1976 there were 784 executions.

There are currently 143 prisoners condemned to die on death row.

In 2017 there were no new death sentences.

It has been over a decade since the last execution. Let Governor Roy Cooper know that you don’t support executions resuming, and you would like to see the practice abolished!


North Carolina Office of the Governor

20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301

(919) 814-2000





New Hampshire

New Hampshire is a very unusual death penalty state. It has one prisoner on death row, and no death chamber.

In 2008 Michael Addison was sentenced to death for the murder of police officer Michael Briggs. It was the first death sentence handed down in New Hampshire since 1959.

From 1739 to 1939 the state executed 24 people.

In 2000, Governor Jeanne Shaheen vetoed a bill to abolish the death penalty that was passed by the House and Senate.

The first attempt to abolish the death penalty in New Hampshire came from Governor William Badger in 1834, he called for a repeal on the punishment. In his address to the legislature he commented, “As expressed in the Constitution, ‘the true design of all punishment is to reform and not to exterminate mankind.'”

A new senate bill is seeking to again abolish the death penalty in New Hampshire.

In support of the bill Rep. Renny Cushing, himself a family member of murder victims has said, “Filling another coffin doesn’t bring anybody back. It just kind of increases the cycles of pain and violence.”

Governor Chris Sununu has promised to veto any death penalty repeal bill.

Let the governor know that now is the time to abolish the death penalty in New Hampshire!


Office of the Governor
State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301


(603) 271-2121