Is the Death Penalty Legal in the United States?

Capital punishment was illegal in 16 out of the 50 U.S. states as of early 2011, although federal prisoners from any state still could be executed. The United States is among the top five nations for conducting executions.

More facts about capital punishment:

  • About 2,500 people are executed every year. Though keeping exact tabs is impossible, it's estimated that more than 1,500 of them are executed in China. Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. round out the top five nations in terms of total executions. Figures for certain countries, including North Korea and Malaysia, are not released.

  • More than three-quarters of the countries in the world had abolished the death penalty by 2011. The only developed nations that had retained the death penalty were the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

  • Between 1851 and 1888, beheading was a legal form of capital punishment in Utah, though it was never used.

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