Mt. Vernon Register-News

Community News Network

October 2, 2013

Study: Two percent of counties produce most executions

WASHINGTON — Sixty-two jurisdictions prosecuted the majority of criminals executed in the United States in recent decades, according to a new study.

An analysis released Wednesday by the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center found that while 32 states allow for capital punishment, most jurisdictions don't use it. Two percent of the counties in the country were responsible for 685 of the 1,320 executions from 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, to 2012.

Harris County, Texas, executed 115 inmates, by far the largest total of any county. Jurisdictions in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arizona had executions numbering in the double digits.

In Northern Virginia, Prince William County had nine death-row inmates who were executed, and Fairfax County had five.

Virginia's Chesterfield (8), Virginia Beach City (8), Hampton City (5), Pittsylvania (5) and Portsmouth City (5) were also listed in the study.

Among the most high-profile executions arising from a Prince William case was that of John Allen Muhammad, who was part of a sniper team that gunned down 10 people in the Washington area in 2002. Federal authorities chose to prosecute Muhammad in Prince William in part because of Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert's record in capital cases. He has sent more than a dozen people to Virginia's death row.

Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the study shows that criminals face vastly different odds depending on where their crimes were committed.

"There's an arbitrariness to the death penalty," he said. "Most of the counties in Virginia have never had an execution in this modern era."

Ebert said he seeks death sentences for criminals who are "the worst of the worst."

"Very few qualify for" capital punishment, Ebert said. "For some reason, Prince William seems to get people who qualify." Some prosecutors in the state favor the death penalty but have stopped enforcing it because of the expense and difficulty, he said. "We're sworn to enforce the law that exists, and it's repugnant to me to think that you're going to administer justice based on finances."

In the most recent execution in a Prince William case, Paul Warner Powell, who murdered one woman and raped and nearly killed her sister, died in Virginia's electric chair in March 2010. A 60-year-old man who was executed a year earlier had killed a young couple.

Another recent Prince William death sentence was overturned by a federal court because of the mishandling of retracted testimony. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled in May that the District Court judge went too far in halting a retrial, and prosecutors are free to pursue a new case against Justin Michael Wolfe in a drug-related killing.

Prince William is tied for 20th on the list of counties which have had inmates executed since 1976. There are seven counties smaller than Prince William, with its population of about 430,000, that saw as many or more executions in the past three dozen years.

In recent years, the use of capital punishment across Virginia has declined dramatically. The state has had fewer death sentences in the past five years than any period since the 1970s. While polls find a majority of Americans still favor capital punishment, support has been steadily declining since the mid-1990s.

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Google acquires drone maker Titan Aerospace to spread Internet

    Google is adding drones to its fleets of robots and driverless cars.
    The Internet search company said it acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides customer access to data services around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

    April 14, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 14, 2014

  • Why Facebook is getting into the banking game

    Who would want to use Facebook as a bank? That's the question that immediately arises from news that the social network intends to get into the electronic money business.

    April 14, 2014

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 10, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks