Last July I estimated that 2013 would end with 36 executions in the United States. The actual total ended up as 39, so there is clearly merit in the method of projection.
Despite legal battles (see Missouri and Oklahoma) over the constitutionality of recent lethal injection protocols (secrecy, supply, method…) this week has seen the 19th US execution in 2014. This startling figure is already three months ahead of 2013 (20 on 17/07/13). As such, today’s projection is likely to be far greater than last year’s, and possibly the largest for a decade.
19 in 114 days is 6/day. 6/day projected until year-end 2014 is 61.
After last year provided the second lowest national executions statistics since 1994, 61 executions in 2014 would be the highest since 2003. In fact, it would be the eighth highest total since the 1972-76 moratorium (8th most lethal year in 4 decades).
While these figures only show haste and not actual predictions (only thirty-three executions are scheduled for this year so far, see The Economist predicting a decline on last year) they are worth noting as a demonstration of the willingness and capacity of American states to carry out the country’s infamously most severe penalty. “Public support” for the death penalty is “low” (though measured dubiously), but still presents a clear majority.
Does this provide evidence that the US death chamber will grow? The answer to that question is “doubtful”, but it is certainly worth discussing in order properly to understand the path the ultimate penalty will take in the coming years.
The 2014 estimate in context.