In the United States, capital punishment—also called the death penalty—is a legal sentence in 31 states and the federal civilian and military legal systems. Its applications are limited by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution to aggravated murders committed by mentally competent adults.
Capital punishment was a penalty for many felonies under English common law, and it was enforced in all of the American colonies prior to the Declaration of Independence. The methods of execution and the crimes subject to the death penalty vary by state and have changed over time. The most common method since 1976 has been lethal injection. Since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, thirty-four states have performed executions.
In 2015, 28 inmates were executed by 6 U.S. States (Florida: 2, Georgia: 5, Missouri: 6, Oklahoma: 1, Texas: 13 [including one volunteer], Virginia: 1), and 2,984 were on death row.
States such as Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, and Arizona execute convicted murderers with relative frequency. Texas has performed the most executions by far, and Oklahoma has had (through mid-2011) the highest per capita execution rate. Alabama has the highest per capita rate of prisoners on death row in the US. However, a number of states have abolished the death penalty. No other Western country still uses the death penalty except for the United States.