Death Penalty in Flux

Executions were halted in all states in September 2007 because of challenges to the lethal injection process. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Baze v. Rees, a lethal injection challenge from Kentucky. Executions resumed in some states, but are on hold for various reasons in other states. Legislative reform or proposed repeal of the death penalty are under consideration in many states (see below).

States with Executions on Hold

See also DPIC's Lethal Injection page; many states have delayed executions because of a shortage of execution drugs.

Click here for 2014 Legislation

Executions on Hold*
STATE REASON FOR HOLD DEVELOPMENTS CURRENT STATUS

California

Last execution: 1/2006

Executions halted because of lethal injection issue

Referendum on repealing the death penalty defeated Nov. 2012

In 2014 a federal District Court held the state's death penalty unconstitutional due to its arbitrariness. Ruling only affects one case, but the state is appealing, which could broaden the impact.

Executions stayed by state and federal courts.

A proposed referendum for 2014 that would alter the appeals process and bypass public review of execution protocol did not receive enough signatures.

DE FACTO MORATORIUM: State abandoned defense of its old lethal injection process and will develop a new single-drug protocol. The changes to the prior lethal injection procedures were not in compliance with the state Administrative Procedures Act.  A large supply of sodium thiopental was obtained from Great Britain, but can no longer be used. Federal judge conducting a review of state's current system.  State's Chief Justice said executions not likely to resume unitl 2016.

Colorado

Last: 1997

On May 22, 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper indefinitely stayed the scheduled execution of Nathan Dunlap because of concerns about the fairness of the system Earlier in 2013, the legislature had considered a repeal bill, but it was withdrawn.
Gov. Hickenlooper re-elected in Nov. 2014.
MORATORIUM: Although the governor did not mention other cases, he called for a reconsideration of the death penalty. Since the indefinite stay was not related to facts about Dunlap, it would appear to apply to all future executions.

North Carolina

Last: 8/2006

Executions effectively halted because of lethal injection issue and questions about applicability of Racial Justice Act. State judge stayed upcoming executions in 2007 DE FACTO MORATORIUM: State judge ruled that Medical Board cannot forbid physician participation. Executions on hold while lethal injection issues are resolved. In 2013, Racial Justice Act was repealed and attempt was made to fix lethal injection issues. Appeals continue.

Arkansas

Last: 11/2005

Lethal injection of Jack Jones, scheduled for Mar. 16, 2010, was indefinitely stayed by federal court. Execution dates stayed. Court of appeals refused to lift stay and governor halted the preparations for execution. DE FACTO MORATORIUM: Ark. Sup. Ct. has stayed executions in 2011 because of lethal injection challenges.  On June 22, 2012, the Ark. Sup. Ct. held that Methods of Execution Act of 2009 was unconstitutional because it delegated too much authority to the Dept. of Corrections. Legislation in 2013 restricted DOC authority, but challenges to the execution process continue. On Feb. 14, 2014, a state court judge prohibited any executions until the legislature passes a more detailed protocol for carrying out lethal injections.

Oregon

Last: 5/1997

On Nov. 22, 2011, Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a moratorium on all executions for the remainder of his term. An execution of a volunteer was coming up on Dec. 6.  It would have been the first execution in 14 years.
Gov. Kitzhaber re-elected Nov. 2014.
MORATORIUM: The governor has called for a debate on the death penalty.  State may require a referendum to end the death penalty.

Kentucky

Last: 11/2008

KY Supreme Court held on Nov. 25, 2009 that new lethal injection protocol had not been properly reviewed under the state's Administrative Procedures Act. All executions on hold while courts review whether new protocol complies with the law.
DE FACTO MORATORIUM: Judge questioning completeness of new protocol. In 2013, new drug protocol adopted. Next hearing to review protocol set for Sept. 22, 2014.

Washington

Last: 9/2010

On Feb. 11, 2014, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on all executions for the remainder of his term.

Lethal injection challenge also unresolved

Capital prosecutions may continue. MORATORIUM: The governor has called for a debate on the death penalty.
STATES: Status Unclear Temporary Hold DEVELOPMENTS CURRENT STATUS
New Mexico
last 2001
 
DEATH PENALTY ABOLISHED on Mar. 18, 2009 Legislature approved and governor signed bill replacing death penalty with life in prison without parole 2 INMATES REMAIN ON DEATH ROW.  Executions are theoretically possible but years of appeals remain.
Connecticut
last 2005
 
DEATH PENALTY ABOLISHED on Apr. 25, 2012 Legislature approved and governor signed bill replacing death penalty with life in prison without parole 11 INMATES REMAIN ON DEATH ROW or face re-sentencing. 1 had sentence overturned.  Hearing underway to determine constitutionality of state's death penalty practice.
Maryland
last 2005
 
DEATH PENALTY ABOLISHED on MAY 2, 2013.  State's lethal injection procedures were not approved according to the state Administrative Procedures Act 4 INMATES REMAIN ON DEATH ROW. Executions cannot be carried out because of lethal injection issue. Governor had begun process of enacting new lethal injection procedures.
Pennsylvania
last 1999
 
In 2014 gov. stayed execution of Hubert Michael because state did not have the drugs to carry it out.   status unclear; legislatively mandated study under way in 2012; some inmates near the end of appeals
Nebraska
last 1997
 
Executions originally halted because electrocution held unconstitutional by Neb. Sup. Ct. on Feb. 8, 2008.  Legislature approved lethal injection in 2009. State Supreme Court had stayed May 8, 2007 execution of volunteer Carey Moore pending review of electrocution process New lethal injection law being challenged in courts.  June 14, 2011 execution of Carey Moore stayed by Neb. Sup. Ct.  New execution date set for different inmate on Mar. 6, 2012 but also stayed. In 2014, Attorney Gen. said death penalty in limbo due to lack of execution drugs. New protocol required.
Nevada
last 2006
 
executions effectively halted because of lethal injection issue; State Supreme Court stayed execution of volunteer William Castillo to review lethal injection status unclear
Tennessee
last 2009
 
all executions stayed in 2010 and 2011
courts are reviewing lethal injection protocol status unclear. State announced a 1-drug protocol using pentobarbital. Numerous dates set for 2014, but stays have been granted.
Indiana
last 2009
 
executions on hold in 2011 state lacks execution drug state may have to change to alternative drug
Montana
last 2006
lethal injection challenge Sept. 6, 2012 ruling found protocol unconstitl. Court identified 3 problems that may be easily remedied, though no action has been taken on 1 of these for 4 yrs. New execution protocol involving 2 drugs released in 2013.
Oklahoma
last 2014
 
Botched execution on April 29, 2014 resulted in a six-month stay for next execution Investigation under way to find what went wrong. Executions delayed until 2015.
Louisiana
last 2010
Lethal injection procedure under review   No executions likely until at least June 2015.
Ohio
last 2014
Lethal injection procedure under review Federal District Court judge reviewing new execution protocol No executions until at least Feb. 11, 2015.
Alabama
last 2013
 
Lethal injection procedure under review. Last non-voluntary execution in 2011. Secrecy law rejected. State plans to use 3-drug process including midazolam. State legislator said no executions likely until March or April 2015 because the state does not have the lethal drugs and needs new legislation regarding secrecy.
Arizona
last 2014
 
Lethal injection procedure under review following botched execution on July 23, 2014 Attorney General announced executions are on hold while investigation is conducted No executions set.
Federal
last 2003
 
Last 4 execution dates stayed because of lethal injection issue. stays granted by federal District Court status unclear; Justice Dept. had requested an execution date for Jeffrey Paul, claiming he is not part of lethal injection suit, but no date has been set

*States are listed as "Executions on Hold" if executions were placed on hold either by court or executive order and the final resolution of that dispute has not been ruled on by the highest appropriate court. Recent (2014) executions in Louisiana and Ohio were stayed.

Ohio began a study of its death penalty system in 2011.  Pennsylvania began a study in 2012.  California, North Carolina, Maryland, New Hampshire and Tennessee have conducted studies of their death penalty process in recent years. A Nevada commission is reviewing a variety of criminal justice issues, including the death penalty. Indiana is studying legislation that would exempt seriously mentally ill defendants from the death penalty.  


For more information, see DPIC's Lethal Injection and Recent Legislative Activity Web pages. First posted February 6, 2007; updates as required.