US ranks in top 5 countries with most executions

US ranks in top 5 countries with most executions

The United States ranks among the top five countries in the world with the most executions in 2023, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

The US carried out 24 death sentences last year with only China (1,000+ executions), Iran (853+), Saudi Arabia (172), and Somalia (38+) using the death penalty more often.

It’s not the first time the US has received this dubious honor - it was also in the top five in 2022.

The new report captures the halfway status of the death penalty in America. At the end of last year, 23 states had abolished the death penalty, and others, like California, haven’t carred out executions in years, despite keeping capital punishment on the books.

Nonetheless, the rate of executions is little changed since the mid-1990s, and a small handful of states like Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri and Alabama continue to carry out executions.

“A select number of US states demonstrated a chilling commitment to the death penalty and a callous intent to invest resources in the taking of human life,” Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said in a statement to The Independent.

The report points to specific examples of executions in the US as representative of the flaws in the capital punishment system, such as the August killing of Johnny Johnson in Missouri.

Johnson, who was convicted of murdering a six-year-old in 2002, had been diagnosed with numerous mental illnesses throughout his life including schizophrenia, major depression, psychotic disorder, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder. He was in an actively psychotic state when he committed his crime, according to officials.

He was executed without a hearing over whether he had the mental function to understand his punishment.

On the eve of his execution, the US Supreme Court refused to intervene, prompting liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson to argue in a dissenting opinion that the decision “paves the way to execute a man with documented mental illness before any court meaningfully investigates his competency to be executed.”

They added: “There is no moral victory in executing someone who believes Satan is killing him to bring about the end of the world.”

The Amnesty report also singles out the October execution of Michael Duane Zack, who was convicted of the 1996 murder of a woman in Escambia County, Florida. He was executed before courts could consider the building scientific evidence that his lifelong diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is equivalent to an intellectual disability.

Joe Biden, despite being the first US president to openly oppose capital punishment, has continued to preside over the federal executions process.

In July 2023, Robert Bowers, who shot and killed 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018, was sentenced to death, though this was a holdover case from the Trump years. This January, the DOJ sought its first Biden-era execution, for Payton Gendron, the then-18-year-old who killed 10 Black shoppers at a New York supermarket in 2022.

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage