CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Questioning Why the South Leads the U.S. in Executions

From Though 38 states now have a death penalty, one region carries it out far more often than any other. Southern states have executed 81 percent of the national total since 1976. Nearly half have been in just two Southern states: Texas with 368 and Virginia with 95. Why the South leads the nation in executions is a complicated question with no definitive answer, say historians.

Some point to a passage in the Supreme Court's 1976 ruling, Gregg v. Georgia, as a clue: "In part, capital punishment is an expression of society's moral outrage at particularly offensive conduct. This function may be unappealing to many, but it is essential in an ordered society that asks its citizens to rely on legal processes rather than self-help to vindicate their wrongs."

Christopher Waldrep, an American history professor at San Francisco State University who has written extensively about Southern history says, "It really all comes down to retribution, and that is the same imperative that animated lynchers. It's an important point that the same region of the country that led the nation in lynchings now leads in executions. . . . I think there is a connection."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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