• Press Release

Delaware Supreme Court Rules Death Penalty Unconstitutional

August 2, 2016

The Delaware Supreme Court ruled that the state’s death penalty as it currently stands is unconstitutional in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Hurst v. Florida. The Hurst decision required that juries, not judges, must determine whether to impose the death penalty.

This decision makes Delaware, which has not executed a prisoner since 2012,  the 19th U.S. state to abolish capital punishment. Twelve additional states have not carried out executions in 10 years or more, reflecting the longstanding trend away from the death penalty.

"Momentum continues to build against the death penalty, and Delaware today has joined a growing majority on the right side of history,” said James Clark, senior death penalty campaigner at Amnesty International USA. “Today more than half of U.S. states do not carry out executions. Those few that continue must end this failed system and abolish this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment once and for all.”

Amnesty International has documented a steady decline in the use of the death penalty in the United States and around the world. In 2015, only six states carried out any executions, and 86 percent of executions were concentrated in just three states: Texas, Missouri, and Georgia.

Death sentences in the U.S. have declined annually for the past 15 years. 2015 marked the lowest number of executions since 1991 with 28 executions – a 20 percent decline from the previous year – and the lowest number of new death sentences since the early 1970s with 49, a 33 percent decline.

Amnesty International USA opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. As of today, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The U.S. was one of only nine countries in the world that carried out executions each year between 2009 and 2013.