Since peaking at 98 executions in 1999, the annual number of executions in the United States has considerably declined and, in 2016, that figure hit a 25-year low: 20 people were executed.Death Penalty Information Center, Facts about the Death Penalty (Washington, DC: Death Penalty Information Center, 2017), 1.
Owing to this decline, the United States dropped out of the top five countries in executions for the first time in a decade.David Masci, “5 Facts about the Death Penalty,” Pew Research Center, April 24, 2017.
However, executions are again on the rise, increasing to 23 people in 2017.Death Penalty Information Center, Facts about the Death Penalty (2017), at 1.
In California, voters rejected a 2016 ballot initiative to end the death penalty and instead passed Proposition 66 to accelerate it by, among other things, requiring that legal challenges to death sentences take no more than five years.Ballotpedia, “California Proposition 66, Death Penalty Procedures (2016),” accessed December 11, 2017.
In August 2017, the California Supreme Court upheld that law but declared that strict deadlines on appeals must be “directive” rather than mandatory.Briggs v. Brown, 3 Cal. 5th 808, 823 (Cal. 2017).
As a result, California, which has more than 740 people on death row and has not used its death penalty since 2006, could soon begin executions of the 15 people whose appeals have been exhausted.Shelby Grad, “After 11-Year Hiatus, Could Death Penalty Soon Be Carried Out Again in California?,” Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2017.