|Purpose||Information on issues concerning capital punishment|
Senior Director of Research and Special Projects
The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on disseminating studies and reports related to the death penalty. Founded in 1990, DPIC is primarily focused on the application of capital punishment in the United States.
DPIC does not take a formal position on the death penalty but is critical of how it is administered. As a result, some have referred to it as an anti-death penalty organization. According to a pro-death penalty prosecutor, DPIC is "probably the single most comprehensive and authoritative internet resource on the death penalty" but "makes absolutely no effort to present any pro-death penalty views."
Personnel and funding
The Center's executive director is Robert Dunham, succeeding Richard Dieter in March 2015. Dieter had been executive director since 1992. George H. Kendall, of counsel at the national law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, is president of the board of directors. He succeeded David J. Bradford, co-chairman of the litigation department for the national law firm, Jenner & Block, and the founding attorney of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, and Michael Millman.
DPIC has received funding from a number of American philanthropic foundations. In 2009, the organization also received funding from the European Union. DPIC has been ranked among the Top Criminal Justice Nonprofits by Philanthropedia.
DPIC releases an annual report on the death penalty, highlighting significant developments and trends and featuring the latest statistics. The Center also produces in-depth reports on various issues related to the death penalty such as arbitrariness, costs, innocence, and race. In November 2018, it issued a major report on lethal-injection secrecy entitled, Behind the Curtain: Secrecy and the Death Penalty in the United States. In September 2020, it issued a new report on race and the death penalty entitled, Enduring Injustice: The Persistence of Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Death Penalty. Associated Press described the report as “a history lesson in how lynchings and executions have been used in America and how discrimination bleeds into the entire criminal justice system. It traces a line from lynchings of old — killings outside the law — where Black people were killed in an effort to assert social control during slavery and Jim Crow, and how that eventually translated into state-ordered executions.”
In 1993, the United States House Committee on the Judiciary asked DPIC for assistance in identifying the risks that innocent people might be executed. That request led to the creation of DPIC's Innocence List, initially released as a Staff Report by the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights Committee on the Judiciary. The list was compiled using the objective criterion of legal exoneration. To be included, individuals must have been convicted and sentenced to death and then subsequently either: (1) been acquitted of all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row; (2) had all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row dismissed by the prosecution or the courts; or (3) been granted a complete pardon based on evidence of innocence. DPIC has continued to update the list, which as of October 1, 2020, documented 172 exonerations of persons who had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death. The list does not include individuals who are innocent of the murder, but were involved in the crime in some lesser manner, or innocent prisoners who nonetheless pled guilty or no-contest to lesser crimes they did not commit in order to ensure their release from prison.
The DPIC website contains a page devoted to U.S. executions that death-penalty experts have considered to have been "botched." This includes a statistical analysis by University of Massachusetts Amherst Prof. Austin Sarat, which found 276 executions between 1890 and 2010 that Sarat deemed to be botched. His definition of "botched" was an execution that deviated from the established execution protocol in a manner that “involv[ed] unanticipated problems or delays that caused, at least arguably, unnecessary agony for the prisoner or that reflect[ed] gross incompetence of the executioner.” The page features a list and brief description of botched executions in the modern U.S. death-penalty era, which included 51 examples as of March 1, 2018.
In 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in Baze v. Rees, a case challenging the three-drug cocktail used for many executions by lethal injection. The respondent's lawyer, Roy T. Englert, Jr., criticized DPIC's botched executions list, on the grounds that a majority of the executions on it “did not involve the infliction of pain, but were only delayed by technical problems", such as difficulty in finding a suitable vein. However, the list also contains cases of prisoners catching on fire in electric chair executions, a prisoner moaning and banging his head against a steel pole in a gas chamber execution carried out by a drunk executioner in Mississippi in 1983, and numerous instances of coughing, spasming, groaning, and gasping during executions.
The majority and dissenting justices of the U.S. Supreme Court cited to data on the DPIC webpage a total of eight times — and in all three opinions — in the 2015 lethal injection case, Glossip v. Gross.
- "Grant Schulte, Associated Press, Company: Nebraska shouldn't have gotten death penalty drug". Lincoln Journal Star. April 13, 2017. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- "Alan Blinder, Alabama Inmate, 75, Hopes to Dodge Death for an Eighth Time". The New York Times. May 24, 2017. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- "Zusha Elinson and Beth Reinhard, Effort Expands to Boost Punishment for Police Killers". The Wall Street Journal. June 8, 2017. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- "Three States Accounted For 80 Percent Of Executions in 2014". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on December 20, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
- Latzer, Barry (October 27, 2010). Death Penalty Cases: Leading U.S. Supreme Court Cases on Capital Punishment. Elsevier. p. 21. ISBN 978-0123820259.
- "1000+ Death Penalty Links". The ClarkCounty Prosecuting Attorney. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- "List of Projects financed under EIDHR" (PDF). European Commission. Archived from the original on August 11, 2011. Retrieved August 20, 2017.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- "About Us". Death Penalty information Center. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
- "The Death Penalty in 2016: Year End Report" (PDF). Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- "Reports". Death Penalty information Center. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- "Behind the Curtain: Secrecy and the Death Penalty in the United States" (PDF). Death Penalty information Center. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
- "Enduring Injustice: The Persistence of Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Death Penalty" (PDF). Death Penalty information Center. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
- "Colleen Long, Report: Death penalty cases show history of racial disparity". Associated Press. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
- "Innocence and the Death Penalty: Assessing The Danger of Mistaken Executions". Death Penalty Information Center. October 21, 1993. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- "Innocence: List of Those Freed From Death Row". Death Penalty Information Center. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- "Innocence Database". Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
- "Additional Innocence Information". Death Penalty Information Center. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
- "Botched Executions". Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
- Baze v. Rees oral arguments.
- "Glossip v. Gross" (PDF).