Rhode Island

Rhode Island

FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY: Controversy With Rhode Island Ends in Plea Deal

The federal death penalty is controversial because it can be applied even in the 18 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico that have elected not to have capital punishment in their own law. Out of respect for the people of Rhode Island--a non-death penalty state--the governor, Lincoln Chafee (pictured), resisted turning over a defendant in 2011 to face the federal death penalty. The defendant, Jason Pleau, agreed to plead guilty to a series of charges including murder if he could be tried in state court. The federal government resisted this offer, and it eventually prevailed in a court challenge by the governor regarding custody of Pleau. Now the federal government has announced that it will accept a plea in federal court in exchange for not seeking a death sentence. Following the agreement, Gov. Chafee said, "The case today has reached a conclusion, and [the victim's] family can begin the long healing process. A life sentence is the appropriate punishment for this brutal crime and respects Rhode Island's longstanding opposition to the death penalty."

DPIC RESOURCES: New State Pages Now Available

DPIC is pleased to announce the completion of our State Information Pages for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  These state profiles provide historical and current information on the death penalty for each state, including famous cases, past legislative actions, and links to key organizations and state officials.  For frequently updated information, such as execution totals, the size of death row, or the number of exonerations, see our State-by-State Database.  Readers are encouraged to send additional information, pictures, and links to organizations in their state.  You can reach the State Information Pages through the "State by State" button at the top of every page on our website or under the "Resources" tab in our main menu.

NEW VOICES: Rhode Island's Governor Explains His Resistance to Federal Death Penalty Case

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln D. Chafee (Indep.) recently explained his denial of a request to transfer Jason Pleau to the federal government for a potential death penalty prosecution.  Chafee stated, " As a matter of public policy, Rhode Islanders have long opposed the death penalty, even for the most heinous crimes.  To voluntarily let Mr. Pleau be exposed to the federal death penalty for a crime committed in Rhode Island would be an abdication of one of my core responsibilities as governor: defending and upholding the legitimate public-policy choices made by the people of this state."  In his op-ed in the Providence Journal, the governor noted that Pleau had offered to plead guilty to murder in state court and accept a sentence of life without parole. Chafee rejected the accusation that his actions were driven by a personal opposition to capital punishment. The governor noted that Rhode Island abolished the death penalty in 1852, although a very narrow death penalty statute was put in place afterwards.   That law was finally removed in 1984, and no executions occurred in Rhode Island after 1852.  Read full op-ed below.

Sixty Percent of US Jurisdictions have had no executions in 5 years

Although the United States is considered a death penalty country, executions are rare or non-existent in much of the nation.  Thirty-two of 53 jurisdictions in the U.S. (50 states, the District of Columbia, the Federal Government, and the Military) either do not have the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in at least 5 years. The table below lists the jurisdictions where executions have been absent:

Jurisdictions with no recent executions

Although the United States is considered a death penalty country, executions are rare or non-existent in much of the nation. 26 of 53 jurisdictions in the U.S. (50 states, the District of Columbia, the Federal Government, and the Military) either do not have the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in at least 10 years. Most of those have not carried out an execution since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

States With No Death Penalty Share Lower Homicide Rates

States With No Death Penalty Share Lower Homicide Rates NEW YORK TIMES

September 22, 2000

States With No Death Penalty Share Lower Homicide Rates

By RAYMOND BONNER and FORD FESSENDEN

The dozen states that have chosen not to enact the death penalty since the Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that it was constitutionally permissible have not had higher homicide rates than states with the death penalty, government statistics and a new survey by The New York Times show.