The death penalty in the Americas in 2008

Sam Millsap, who prosecuted Ruben Cantu for capital murder in the USA

© Amnesty International

During 2008, 38 executions were known to have been carried out in the Americas – 37 in the USA and one in the twin island state of St Kitts and Nevis.

At least 125 people were sentenced to death in six countries: USA (at least 111), Trinidad and Tobago (10), Bahamas (at least 1), Saint Kitts and Nevis (at least 1), Saint Vincent and Grenadines (at least 1), and Jamaica (1).

The United States of America (USA) remains the only country in the Americas that regularly executes.

In USA, 37 executions were carried out by the authorities in nine states: Texas (18), Virginia (4). Georgia (3), South Carolina (3), Florida (2), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (2), Mississippi (2), Kentucky (1).

There is increasing evidence that the USA is slowly turning away from the death penalty. Sentences have continued to drop since the peak in the mid-1990s.

Reports continue to demonstrate that capital justice in the USA is marked by arbitrariness, discrimination and error. During 2008, four more men were released from death row on grounds of innocence, bringing the number of such cases since 1975 to more than 120. The four men had all spent more than a decade on death row. Despite such revelations about mistakes, states continue to execute even where there are doubts about the condemned prisoners’ guilt.

St Kitts and Nevis became the first country in the Americas outside of the USA to carry out an execution since 2003. On 19 December 2008, Charles Laplace was hanged despite remaining doubts as to whether all avenues of appeal had been exhausted.

Death sentences and executions in 2008 – developments around the worldwide application of the death penalty in 2008.