Death Penalty Information Center

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Death Penalty Information Center
Formation 1990; 27 years ago (1990)
Type Non-profit organization
Purpose Information on issues concerning capital punishment
Headquarters Washington, DC
Executive director
Robert Dunham
Director of Research and Special Projects

Robin Konrad


The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) is a non-profit organization that focuses on disseminating studies and reports related to the death penalty by itself and others to the news media and general public. The Center was founded in 1990 and is primarily focused on the application of capital punishment in the United States. The Center releases an annual report on the death penalty,[2] highlighting significant developments and trends and featuring the latest statistics, the Center also produces in-depth reports on various issues related to the death penalty such as arbitrariness, costs, innocence, and race.[3] 

DPIC does not take a formal position on the death penalty, but is critical of the manner in which it is administered.[4][5][6]This has led death-penalty proponents and some media outlets to characterize it as an anti-death penalty organization.[7][8]

The Center is based in Washington, D.C., and its executive director is Robert Dunham, succeeding Richard Dieter in March 2015. Mr. Dieter had been executive director since 1992. George H. Kendall, of counsel at the national law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, is president of the board of directors, he succeeded David J. Bradford, co-chairman of the litigation department for the national law firm, Jenner & Block, and the founding attorney of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, and the late Michael Millman.


According to a pro-death penalty prosecutor, the DPIC is “probably the single most comprehensive and authoritative internet resource on the death penalty”, but “this site makes absolutely no effort to present any pro-death penalty views, and liberally spreads propaganda and rhetoric on behalf of ‘the cause’.”[9]

The State of Kentucky criticized DPIC's list of botched executions, on January 7, 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in Baze v. Rees, a case challenging the three-drug cocktail used for many executions by lethal injection. The respondent's lawyer, Roy T. Englert, Jr., referred to the Death Penalty Information Center's list of “botched” executions. He criticized it because a majority of the executions on the list “did not involve the infliction of pain, but were only delayed by technical problems (e.g., difficulty in finding a suitable vein)”.[10][11]

DPIC also has been criticized for its list of exonerated death row inmates by Ward A. Campbell, a California high prosecutor, who argued that the list contained cases where the defendant was "actually guilty", and that DPIC itself was created to "shape press coverage of the death penalty."[12] In fact, the DPIC Innocence List was created in response to a request from the U.S. Congress to identify the risks that innocent people might be executed,[13] the list was compiled using the objective criterion of legal exoneration. To be included, individuals must have been convicted and sentenced to death and then subsequently either: (1) been acquitted of all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row; (2) had all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row dismissed by the prosecution or the courts; or (3) been granted a complete pardon based on evidence of innocence.[14] DPIC has continued to update the list, which as of June 1, 2017, documented 159 exonerations of persons who had been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death, the list does not include individuals who are innocent of the murder, but were involved in the crime in some lesser manner, or innocent prisoners who nonetheless pled guilty or no-contest to lesser crimes they did not commit in order to ensure their release from prison.[15]

Some have suggested that the prosecutors' criticism of the exoneration lists reflects an ongoing refusal to accept responsibility for the role of official misconduct in wrongful homicide convictions. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, the two most prevalent causes of wrongful convictions in death penalty cases are official misconduct and perjury or false accusation, as of May 31, 2017, the Registry reports that official misconduct was a contributing factor in 68.3% (571 of 836) of homicide exonerations, very often in combination with perjury or false accusation, which also was a contributing factor in 68.3% of homicide exonerations.[16] Recent death-row exonerations show an even greater prevalence of such misconduct. A DPIC analysis of the National Registry database revealed that official misconduct contributed to wrongful convictions in 82.4% of the 34 death-row exonerations between January 2007 and April 2017, and perjury or false accusation were present in 76.5% of the cases. Moreover, every one of the 13 homicide exonerations in 2016 in which the NRE database shows the defendant had been capitally charged or a witness or a loved one had been threatened with the death penalty unless the witness cooperated with law enforcement involved either official misconduct or perjured testimony/false accusation, and 11 (84.6%) of the cases involved both.[17]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "E.g., DPIC 2016 Year End Report," (PDF),
  3. ^ See DPIC reports,
  4. ^ "Alan Blinder, Alabama Inmate, 75, Hopes to Dodge Death for an Eighth Time, New York TImes (May 24, 2017) (“It’s one of those cases in which nobody is happy,” said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a research group that has expressed concerns about the application of capital punishment. “People who simply want the execution are unhappy because of the passage of time,” he said. “People who oppose the death penalty are unhappy because they don’t want Tommy Arthur executed. People who want fairness are unhappy because, despite the length of time this case has been in the courts, the process has never been fair.”)". Retrieved June 4, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Grant Schulte, Associated Press, Company: Nebraska shouldn't have gotten death penalty drug, Lincoln Journal-Star (April 13, 2017) (Death Penalty Information Center "takes no stance on the death penalty but is critical of how it's administered").". Retrieved June 4, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Zusha Elinson and Beth Reinhard, Effort Expands to Boost Punishment for Police Killers, Wall Street Journal (June 8, 2017) ("The 31 states that have the death penalty also have a higher per capita rate of police killings than states that don’t, raising more questions about its impact on deterrence, according to a study by the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonpartisan research organization.").". Retrieved June 8, 2017. 
  7. ^ Three States Accounted For 80 Percent Of Executions in 2014,, |accessdate=December 18, 2014|quote=The Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that opposes executions and tracks the issue, said 35 inmates were executed this year and 71 have so far been given death sentences.}}
  8. ^ Barry Latzer (2010), Death Penalty Cases: Leading U.S. Supreme Court Cases on Capital Punishment, Elsevier, p.21.
  9. ^ Death penalty links on Clarkprosecutor
  10. ^ Baze v. Rees oral arguments.
  11. ^ DPIC list of botched executions.
  13. ^ Innocence and the Death Penalty: Assessing The Danger of Mistaken Executions, Staff Report by the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights Committee on the Judiciary One Hundred Third Congress, First Session Issued October 21, 1993.
  14. ^ See Innocence: List of Those Freed From Death Row.
  15. ^ DPIC has profiles of a sampling of these cases on its page on Partial Innocence-Conviction Reduced/Possible Innocence-Sentence Commuted.
  17. ^ Robert Dunham, The Most Common Causes of Wrongful Death Penalty Convictions: Official Misconduct and Perjury or False Accusation (May 31, 2017).

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