After a 17-year halt on federal executions, death row claimed three lives this week. Because each state has it’s own laws regarding capital punishment, and about half of U.S. states no longer have it, the prosecution sometimes looks to the federal government to enforce the death penalty.
Texas, one of 28 remaining states that still exercises the death penalty, executes more inmates than any other state. In Washington state, the state supreme court has ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional. California, Oregon, and Pennsylvania still have death penalty laws on the books but are under gubernatorial moratorium, meaning they can’t be exercised. Others have simply abolished the death penalty.
According to the ACLU, 98% of executions are done on the state level, this is because it is the job of the state to regulate crime. Executions at the federal level are reserved for those who have committed federal offenses.
Many times though, states issues will be taken to the higher, federal court if there is an issue about state overreach. The eighth and fourteenth amendment put limits on states ability to punish, so in extreme cases, the issue is taken to a federal court.
Real life Breaking Bad
On July 17, Dustin Honken, 52, was executed by lethal injection for the 1993 murders of five adults and two children. The motive was to silence informants and frustrate an investigation into his drug trafficking.