In the state of Mississippi, there have been almost 800 people executed. Of these, almost 640 were black men. From 1817 to 1940, all executions in Mississippi were carried out by hanging. The first execution by electrocution took place in 1940. From then until 1952, the state’s portable electric chair (only one of two states to have one) was moved from county to county for 75 executions. Inmates were executed by lethal gas from 1954 to 1989. Though struck down as unconstitutional in 1972 with many other states’ death penalty laws by the U.S. Supreme Court, Mississippi quickly passed a new death penalty measure and continued executions in 1974. In 1984, the Mississippi legislature amended the state’s death penalty statute to provide for lethal injection for all individuals sentenced to death after the law went into effect. Inmates sentenced prior to the change were still executed by lethal gas.
Since 1976, Mississippi has executed fewer prisoners than six other southern states despite comparable homicide rates. Some claim that this stems from the inability of poorer counties to afford legal fees for defendants accused of capital crimes. Because death penalty cases are subject to a high standard of review in Mississippi, the state has been less quick in its executions lately.
In 2011, a bill was introduced in the state legislature to impose a moratorium on executions, but it was defeated.