Abolition State

The death penalty began in Delaware in 1662 with the colony’s first hanging. The official method of execution for Delaware was hanging until 1986, when lethal injection became the new official method, with the exception of those already sentenced to death by hanging. This state’s legislative stance on the death penalty has changed over time, with the state repealing and reinstating the death penalty (1958 -1961) prior to the federal repeal and reinstatement (in 1972 – 1976). There have been 16 executions in Delaware since the current reinstatement of the death penalty in 1974.  The first contemporary execution took place in 1992. 

In August 2, 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that the statute violated capital defendants' right to a jury trial by allowing the judge, rather than the jury, to determine whether the prosecution had proven all the facts necessary to impose a death sentence and by permitting death sentences to be imposed without a unanimous jury vote that aggravating circumstances (reasons for death) outweighed mitigating circumstances (reasons for life) beyond a reasonable doubt. The death penalty is currently an option for convicted murders in Delaware, and while the death penalty has not been heavily pursued in recent years, the state has one of the highest per capita execution rates in the U.S.

For more information and ways to get involved, contact your state's organizations:

Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty

Founded in 1992, Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty (DCODP) is a statewide organization that educates the public about the harmful effects of the death penalty and advocates alternatives that affirm rather than denigrate the value of human life.


Death Penalty Information Center Page