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Executions in the United States, 1608-2002: The ESPY File

Resource Type
Dataset : aggregate data
  • Espy, M. Watt (Headland, Alabama)
  • Smykla, John Ortiz (University of South Alabama. Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice)
Other Title
  • Version 5 (Subtitle)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • National Science Foundation
  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics
Free Keywords
capital punishment; crime; criminal justice system; executions; historical data; offenders; offenses
  • Abstract

    This collection furnishes data on executions performed under civil authority in the United States between 1608 and 2002. The dataset describes each individual executed and the circumstances surrounding the crime for which the person was convicted. Variables include age, race, name, sex, and occupation of the offender, place, jurisdiction, date, and method of execution, and the crime for which the offender was executed. Also recorded are data on whether the only evidence for the execution was official records indicating that an individual (executioner or slave owner) was compensated for an execution.
  • Methods

    ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection: Performed consistency checks.; Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes..
  • Table of Contents


    • DS1: Dataset
Temporal Coverage
  • 1608 / 2002
    Time period: 1608--2002
  • 1970 / 2002
    Collection date: 1970--2002
Geographic Coverage
  • United States
Sampled Universe
Executions that occurred under civil authority in the United States or within territory that later became the United States.
2016-07-20 Corrections were made to two records. Case number 40001 was dropped, as government records show that she was pardoned. For case number 50367, the method of execution was changed from hanging to electrocution.2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.2004-02-27 Data from the years 1992 through 2002 have been added to the data file. The SPSS and SAS data definition statements have been updated accordingly and Part 2 of this study, old SAS data definition statements will be removed, leaving all files in only one part. The ASCII codebook has also been updated and converted to a PDF file. Funding insitution(s): National Science Foundation (SES 84-09725). United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
This study is freely available to the general public via web download.
Alternative Identifiers
  • 8451 (Type: ICPSR Study Number)
  • Is new version of
    DOI: 10.3886/ICPSR08451.v4
  • Bush, Erin. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: Executions of Women in the United States. Women's History in the Digital World.. 2013.
  • Khodayari, Michael R.. A Closer Look at Race, Capital and Sentencing: An Examination of Race and Death Penalty Post-Furman and Gregg Decisions from 1977-2011. Thesis, University of Texas at Arlington. 2012.
  • Roth, Randolph. Measuring feelings and beliefs that may facilitate (or deter) homicide: A research note on the causes of historic fluctuations in homicide rates in the United States. Homicide Studies.16, (2), 197-216.2012.
    • ID: 10.1177/1088767912442501 (DOI)
  • Baumgartner, Frank R., Unah, Isaac. Explaining the Surprising Decline of Capital Punishment in North Carolina. Raleigh, North Carolina. 2011.
  • Blackman, Paul H., McLaughlin, Vance. The Espy files on American executions: User beware. Homicide Studies.15, (3), 209-227.2011.
    • ID: 10.1177/1088767911418054 (DOI)
  • Baumgartner, Frank R., Unah, Isaac. The Decline of Capital Punishment in North Carolina. San Francisco, CA. 2010.
    • ID: (URL)
  • Allen, Howard W., Clubb, Jerome M.. Race, Class, and the Death Penalty: Capital Punishment in American History. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2008.
  • Reid, Lesley Williams. Disaggregating the effects of racial and economic inequality on early twentieth-century execution rates. Sociological Spectrum.28, (2), 160-174.2008.
    • ID: 10.1080/02732170701796312 (DOI)
  • DeFronzo, James, Ditta, Ashley, Hannon, Lance, Prochnow, Jane. Male serial homicide. Homicide Studies.11, (1), 3-14.2007.
    • ID: 10.1177/1088767906297434 (DOI)
  • Amstutz, David Lee. Capital Punishment in Silas Garber's Nebraska. Southwestern Social Science Association Annual Meeting.San Antonio, TX. 2006.
  • Poveda, Tony G.. Geographic location, death sentences and executions in post-Furman Virginia. Punishment and Society.8, (4), 423-442.2006.
    • ID: 10.1177/1462474506067566 (DOI)
  • Vandiver, Margaret. Lethal Punishment: Lynchings and Legal Executions in the South. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 2006.
  • Barrow, Janice H.. Lynching in the Mid-Atlantic, 1882-1940. American Nineteenth Century History.6, (3), 241-271.2005.
    • ID: 10.1080/14664650500380969 (DOI)
  • Donohue, John J., Wolfers, Justin. Uses and abuses of empirical evidence in the death penalty debate. Stanford Law Review.58, 791-845.2005.
  • Pfeifer, Michael J.. Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. 2004.
  • Blackman, Paul H., McLaughlin, Vance. Mass legal executions of Blacks in the United States, 17th-20th centuries. Homicide Studies.7, (3), 235-262.2003.
    • ID: 10.1177/1088767903253607 (DOI)
  • Kubik, Jeffrey D., Moran, John R.. Lethal elections: Gubernatorial politics and the timing of executions. Journal of Law and Economics.46, 1-25.2003.
    • ID: 10.1086/374705 (DOI)
  • Vandiver, Margaret, Giacopassi, David J., Curley, Mazie S.. The Tennessee Slave Code: A legal antecedent to inequities in modern capital cases. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice.1, (3/4), 67-89.2003.
    • ID: 10.1300/J222v01n03_04 (DOI)
  • Linders, Annulla. The Execution Spectacle and State Legitimacy: The Changing Nature of the American Execution Audience, 1833-1937. Law and Society Review.36, (3), 607-655.2002.
    • ID: (URL)
  • Vandiver, Margaret, Coconis, Michel. 'Sentenced to the punishment of death': Pre-Furman capital crimes and executions in Shelby County, Tennessee. University of Memphis Law Review.31, (4), 861-918.2001.
  • Poveda, Tony G.. American Exceptionalism and the Death Penalty. Social Justice.27, (2), 252-267.2000.
  • Aguirre, Adalberto, Jr., Baker, David V.. Slave executions in the United States: A descriptive analysis of social and historical factors. Social Science Journal.36, (1), 1 -1999.
    • ID: 10.1016/S0362-3319(99)80001-9 (DOI)
  • Baker, David V.. A descriptive profile and socio-historical analysis of female executions in the United States, 1632-1997. Women and Criminal Justice.10, (3), 57-93.1999.
    • ID: 10.1300/J012v10n03_04 (DOI)
  • Brandon, Craig. The Electric Chair: An Unnatural American History. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc.. 1999.
  • Freilich, Joshua D., Rivera, Craig J.. Mercy, death, and politics: An analysis of executions and commutations in New York State, 1935-1963. American Journal of Criminal Justice.24, (1), 15-29.1999.
    • ID: 10.1007/BF02887615 (DOI)
  • Pfeifer, Michael J.. Lynching and criminal justice in South Louisiana, 1878-1930. Louisiana History.40, (2), 155-177.1999.
  • Aguirre, Adalberto, Jr., Baker, David V.. A descriptive profile of Mexican American executions in the Southwest. Social Science Journal.34, (3), 389 -1997.
    • ID: 10.1016/S0362-3319(97)90037-9 (DOI)
  • Hale, Robert L.. A Review of Juvenile Executions in America. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press. 1997.
  • Harries, Keith D., Cheatwood, Derral. The Geography of Execution: The Capital Punishment Quagmire in America. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 1997.
  • Thomson, Ernie. Discrimination and the death penalty in Arizona. Criminal Justice Review.22, (1), 65-76.1997.
    • ID: 10.1177/073401689702200106 (DOI)
  • Harries, Keith. The last walk: A geography of execution in the United States, 1786-1985. Political Geography.14, (5), 473-495.1995.
    • ID: 10.1016/0962-6298(95)93407-A (DOI)
  • Hunter, Robert J., Ralph, Paige Heather, Marquart, James. The death sentencing of rapists in pre-Furman Texas (1942-1971): The racial dimension. American Journal of Criminal Law.20, (3), 313-337.1993.
  • Clines, Francis X.. A Dismayed Historian of the Gallows. New York Times.A16 -1992.
  • Harries, Keith. Gender, execution and geography in the United States. Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography.74, (1), 21-29.1992.
    • ID: (URL)
  • Keil, Thomas J., Vito, Gennaro F.. The effects of the Furman and Gregg decisions on Black-White execution ratios in the South. Journal of Criminal Justice.20, (3), 217-226.1992.
    • ID: 10.1016/0047-2352(92)90046-C (DOI)
  • Tolnay, Stewart E., Beck, E.M., Massey, James L.. Black Competition and White Vengeance: Legal Execution of Blacks as Social Control in the cotton South, 1890 to 1929. Social Science Quarterly.73, (3), 627-644.1992.
  • Schneider, Victoria, Smykla, John Ortiz. A summary analysis of 'Executions in the United States, 1608-1987: The ESPY File'. The Death Penalty in America: Current Research.Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Co. 1991.
  • Beck, E. M., Tolnay, Stewart E.. The killing fields of the Deep South: The market for cotton and the lynching of Blacks, 1882-1930. American Sociological Review.55, (4), 526-539.1990.
    • ID: (URL)
  • Schneider, Victoria, Smykla, John Ortiz. War and capital punishment. Journal of Criminal Justice.18, (3), 253-260.1990.
    • ID: 10.1016/0047-2352(90)90005-V (DOI)
  • Aguirre, Adalberto, Jr., Baker, David V.. The execution of Mexican American prisoners in the Southwest. Social Justice.16, (4(38)), 150-161.1989.
  • Beck, E. M., Massey, James L., Tolnay, Steward E.. The gallows, the mob, and the vote: Lethal sanctioning of Blacks in North Carolina and Georgia, 1882 to 1930. Law and Society Review.23, (2), 317-331.1989.
    • ID: (URL)
  • Radelet, Michael L.. Executions of whites for crimes against blacks: Exceptions to the rule?. Sociological Quarterly.30, (4), 529-544.1989.
    • ID: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.1989.tb01533.x (DOI)
  • Smothers, Ronald. Headland Journal: Historian's Death Penalty Obsession. New York Times.A16 -1987.

Update Metadata: 2016-07-20 | Issue Number: 1 | Registration Date: 2016-07-20

Espy, M. Watt; Smykla, John Ortiz (1988): Executions in the United States, 1608-2002: The ESPY File. Version 5. Version: v5. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.