For five and a half years, The Marshall Project has tracked every execution in America. Despite the trauma suffered in these cases—all of them marked by profound losses—they are all too often invisible to most of us.

By recording each story and noting every death, we could show how the machinery of capital punishment quietly grinds forward while few are watching. In the process, we hoped to better understand how our courts and prisons dispense their most severe punishment.

To do this, we created The Next to Die and built a national network of news organizations to help us cover individual cases. On paper, the federal government and 27 states allow juries to impose death sentences for the worst crimes. In practice, fewer than half carry out such sentences, among them Alabama, which plans to put to death Willie B. Smith III on Thursday in its first execution of the year.

Even for those on death row, executions are rare. Since The Marshall Project began tracking cases in August of 2015, the courts set death dates for more than 230 people in these active death penalty states, a small fraction of the nearly 2,600 people sitting on death rows across the country. Many prisoners convinced courts to allow them to pursue additional appeals or were granted reprieves by governors. Yet 120 were executed in that time.

  1. Executions keep coming, even as some states struggle to carry them out.
  2. One-third of people executed went through more than one death date.
  3. Once an execution date arrives, many wait for hours to learn their fate.

Read the full article about executions in America by Tom Meagher at The Marshall Project.