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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

Death Penalty in India, Annual Statistics 2016

This report has been compiled by the Centre on the Death Penalty, National Law University Delhi, for information purposes only.

Accessing accurate and updated statistics on the use of the death penalty in India is an enormous challenge. It is almost impossible to state with any kind of certainty the number of death sentences handed out in any given year or even know the exact number of prisoners under the sentence of death at any given point. 

Lack of updated records, ineffective data reporting and management practices, barriers to accessing official data that should be in the public domain are some of the reasons that have contributed to this situation.

Given that it is the harshest punishment in our criminal justice system, the absence of such basic figures speaks volumes about the level of our engagement with concerns surrounding the administration of this punishment. 

Additionally, the fact that there exists no reliable data even on the number of executions carried out in independent India speaks to the opacity that surrounds the death penalty.

This Annual Statistics Report attempts to address these concerns by collating basic data on the use of
the death penalty in India. We have relied on a variety of sources to put together this information - monitoring judgments, official data provided by some prison departments in state capitals, information received from some High Courts, RTI applications, and newspaper reports. 

The processes adopted in the course of preparing this Report revealed the limitations of each of these sources, and therefore preclude any claim that this data is exhaustive. Despite this, the Report is the most comprehensive source on the status of death penalty cases in India.

We are committed to ensuring that reliable and exhaustive data on the use of the death penalty in India is consistently in the public domain, and subsequent editions of the Annual Statistics Report will take important strides towards that goal.


Statistics in 2016


The numbers below account for death sentences awarded by sessions courts, and acquittals and commutations by appellate courts. Each number in this Report represents a person and not a case, unless otherwise specified. Statistics for the Supreme Court pertain to criminal appeals only. 

A more detailed analysis of the Supreme Court's engagement with the death penalty in 2016 is reflected later in this Report.


  • PRISONERS ON DEATH ROW AS ON 31ST DECEMBER 2016  ⟹  397
  • PERSONS SENTENCED TO DEATH BY SESSIONS COURTS  ⟹  136
  • HIGH COURT ACQUITTALS ⟹ 014
  • HIGH COURT COMMUTATIONS  ⟹  044
  • HIGH COURT CONFIRMATIONS  ⟹  015
  • SUPREME COURT ACQUITTALS*  ⟹   003
  • SUPREME COURT COMMUTATIONS**   ⟹  007
  • SUPREME COURT CONFIRMATIONS**   ⟹  000


*This refers to persons acquitted of charges attracting the death penalty. However, two of these appellants were convicted on other charges.
**These pertain to criminal appeals only. While the Supreme Court did not confirm any death sentence at the criminal appeal stage, there was one confirmation (BA Umesh vs. State of Karnataka) at the review petition stage.

⏩ Click here to read/download the full report (pdf)

Source: Center on the Death Penalty, National Law University Delhi, 2017

⚑ | Report an error, an omission, a typo; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; submit a piece, a comment; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


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