Visualization of the Death Penalty in the United States by State

In case you weren’t aware (I wasn’t), there was a brief period of about four years when the US Supreme Court, in Furman v. Georgia, banned the death penalty in 1972. It remained unconstitutional until 1976 and the case of Gregg v. Georgia, which then reinstated it.

Since then, various revisions to federal policy have been made through the courts, such as banning the execution of mentally insane persons in 1986’s Ford v. Wainwright case and the somewhat controversial (to me at least) decision of McCleskey v. Kemp in 1987 that stated that differences in rates of execution by racial group do not constitute a violation of one’s Constitutional rights to “equal protection of the law” unless one can prove that one was discriminated against personally.

Really? If it turned out that 90% of all prisoners executed were black (which make up about 13% of the general population), you’re telling me there isn’t a systematic problem with the legal system? At which point do we say that certain racial disparities in sentencing and punishment are the result of systematic discrimination? The Supreme Court’s decision may be well-grounded legally-speaking, but sets a dangerous precedent for corruption and bias in sentencing.

With these developments in mind, particularly the racial aspect to the death penalty, I’d like to analyze this dataset. You can find it at