Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the United States, currently used by 31 states and the federal government. Its existence can be traced to the beginning of the American colonies.
There were no executions in the entire country between 1967 and 1977. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down capital punishment statutes in Furman v. Georgia, reducing all death sentences pending at the time to life imprisonment.
Subsequently, a majority of states passed new death penalty statutes, and the court affirmed the legality of capital punishment in the 1976 case Gregg v. Georgia. Since then, more than 1,400 offenders have been executed, including 28 in 2015.
The United States is the only Western country currently applying the death penalty and was the first to develop lethal injection as method of execution, which has since been adopted by five other countries.