Testifying against the Vietnam war in 1971, John Kerry famously asked “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
Now its getting to be time to ask who will be the last person to be executed in the US.
New statistics from the Death Penalty Information Center highlight how realistic this question is becoming. As reported, there were only 28 executions in 2015 (projected). But much more dramatic in its implictations, is the decline of sentences, as shown in this graph, from the Center’s Report (with permission).
Given that only 16% of those sentenced between 1996 and 2013 were actually executed it may well be that none of the 49 sentenced will be executed. Statistically it would be somewhat more than eight people, given that about a third of those sentenced are still on death row, but with the declining rates, who knows? (A better statistician than me could make a more reliable prediction as to when this will all end.)
I cannot tell you who the last person executed will be, but I can tell you this: the last person executed will be someone who killed a white person, and he or she will very possibly be black.