Race and the Death Penalty by the Numbers

By Aura Bogado May 12, 2015

Without much fanfare or national media coverage, Texas has executed seven people since January 1. On Tuesday, the state, which consistently has a the highest number of executions, ended the life of Derrick Dwayne Charles, a black 32-year-old condemned for triple murder.

Of the seven prisoners killed there this year, two were black, three were Latino, two were white, and all were men. If things go as planned, Texas will put two more men to death in June—one white, one black. As they are nationwide, black people are overrepresented among those executed in Texas. Blacks make up only 12 percent of the population but nearly 30 percent of those put to death this year.

Texas is the most extreme but 31 other states, the U.S. military and the federal government—which is trying alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev—have the death penalty. Here’s a map that illustrates where the death penalty stands in the U.S.:


Black people make up just more than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for more than half of death penalty executions in 2014. The race of victims also plays a role: according to Equal Justice USA, a grassroots criminal justice organization, a person convicted of murder is more likely to be sentenced to death if the victim was white. Here’s what death penalty and race look like on a national level in 2014:


Although 32 states have the death penalty, a handful carry out executions regularly. Texas is the most notorious but last year Missouri tied The Lone Star State for the most executions. All in all, seven states put prisoners to death last year: