1972

  • Furman v. Georgia: US Supreme Court effectively suspends the death penalty.

1976

  • Gregg v. Georgia: US Supreme Court effectively reinstates the death penalty. Subsequently, Gary Gilmore is executed by firing squad in Utah in January 1977.

  • Woodson v. North Carolina: US Supreme Court declares the mandatory imposition of the death penalty in first-degree murder cases violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

1977

  • Oklahoma introduces the use of lethal injections as a means of execution.

  • Coker v. Georgia: US Supreme Court holds that the death penalty is an unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment for rape of an adult woman when the victim is not killed.

1978

  • Lockett v. Ohio: US Supreme Court rules that sentencing authorities must consider every possible mitigating factor.

1980

  • Geoffrey v. Georgia: US Supreme Court holds that the death penalty is not possible for ordinary murder.

  • Enmund v. Florida: US Supreme Court holds that the penalty is not allowed for a person who is a minor participant and does not kill, attempt to kill, or intend to kill in a felony.

1982

  • Charles Brooks becomes the first person to be executed via lethal injection.

1984

  • Stickland v. Washington: US Supreme Court rules that convictions can be overturned or death penalty can be set aside when the defendant's counsel can be proven to have performed below the objective standards of reasonableness and that the performance gave rise to the probability that if the counsel had performed adequately, the result would have been different.

  • Velma Barfield becomes the first woman executed since reinstatement of the death penalty.

1986

  • Ford v. Wainwright: US Supreme Court bans execution of insane persons.

1987

  • Tison v. Arizona: US Supreme Court rules that the death penalty may be imposed on a felony-murder defendant who was a major participant in an underlying felony and exhibits indifference to human life.

1988

  • Thompson v. Oklahoma: US Supreme Court declares executions of offenders age fifteen and younger at the time of their crimes as unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.

1989

  • Stanford v. Kentucky and Wilkins v. Missouri: US Supreme Court rules that Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the execution of offenders who were aged sixteen or seventeen at the time of the crime. (Later overturned in Roper v. Simmons in 2005)

  • Penry v. Lynaugh: Executing persons with "mental retardation" is not a violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Later overturned in Atkins v. Virginian in 2002)

1994

  • Violence Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act expands the scope for the use of the federal death penalty.

1995

  • Schulp v. Delo: US Supreme Court delivers a judgement expanding the ability to reopen a case in light of new evidence of innocence.

1996

  • Congress enacts Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. It retrains a prisoners' access to new state hearings for claims of actual innocence. The law also provides that only "unreasonable" unconstitutional state rulings could be overturned, establishes filing deadlines for all habeas claims, and requires competent post-conviction counsel for defence.

1999

  • Pope John Paul II visits St. Louis, Missouri, and calls for an end to the death penalty.

2002

  • Ring v. Arizona: US Supreme Court rules that a death sentence where the necessary aggravating factors are determined by a judge violates a defendant's constitutional right to a trial by jury, as the jury should determine if there are such factors sufficient to call for the death penalty.

  • Akin v. Virginia: US Supreme Court declares that the execution of "mentally retarded" defendants violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

2005

  • Roper v. Simmons: US Supreme Court holds that the use of the death penalty for offenders of whom were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime constitutes a "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the Eighth Amendment. This overturns an earlier Supreme Court Judgement in 1989 of Stanford v. Kentucky.

2006

  • Hill v. McDonough: US Supreme Court holds that appeals on civil rights violations could be made after sentencing.

  • House v. Bell: US Supreme Court rules that post-conviction DNA forensic evidence can be considered in death penalty appeals.

2007

  • New Jersey becomes the first state to legislatively abolish the death penalty since its reinstatement in 1976.

2008

  • Baze v. Rees: US Supreme Court found lethal injection method used in Kentucky was not in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

  • Kennedy v. Louisiana: US Supreme Court rules that states may not impose the death penalty for crimes where the victim's life was not taken.

2009

  • New Mexico repeals the death penalty.

2011

  • Leal Garcia v. Texas: US Supreme court rules that foreign nationals do not have to be notified of the right to contact their consulates unless Congress enacts such a law.

  • Illinois abolishes the death penalty.

2014

  • Hall v. Florida: US Supreme Court rules that IQ tests alone cannot be used as a rigid limit for determining intellectual disability (a.k.a. "mental retardation").

2015

  • Glossip v. Gross: US Supreme Court holds that the use of lethal injections via Midazolam did not constitute a "cruel and unusual punishment", and therefore was not unconstitutional.

  • Nebraska abolishes the death penalty.

2016

  • Hurst v. Florida: US Supreme Court rules that states allowing judges to determine the facts related to sentencing violates the Sixth Amendment in light of the Ring v. Arizona, which requires a jury to determine if there are aggravating factors that call for the death penalty.

  • Delaware Supreme Court rules that that the state's capital sentencing statute violates the Sixth Amendment.

  • In November 2016, California voters reject a measure which would have replaced capital punishment for murder with life in prison without parole and approve by a separate measure intended to speed up executions, Nebraska voters reinstate the death penalty and Oklahoma voters declare support for the constitutionality of capital punishment.

  • For the first time, the Democratic Party platform calls for the abolition of the death penalty.