The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)
|Criminal trials and convictions|
|Rights of the accused|
|Related areas of law|
An execution warrant (also called death warrant or black warrant) is a writ that authorizes the execution of a condemned person. An execution warrant is not to be confused with a "license to kill", which operates like an arrest warrant but with deadly force instead of arrest as the end goal.
In the United States either a judicial or executive official designated by law issues an execution warrant. This is done when a person, in trial court proceedings, has been sentenced to death, after trial and conviction, and usually after appeals are exhausted. Normally when a death warrant is signed and an execution date is set, the condemned person is moved from his or her death row cell to a death watch cell, which is typically located adjacent to the execution chamber. Usually, the government agency charged with carrying out an execution, normally the state's Department of Corrections or the Federal Bureau of Prisons in federal cases, has a limited time frame, normally about 60 days, from the date the warrant is signed, to complete the execution process, or the warrant expires and the condemned person is returned to the death row cell, awaiting another execution date.
Stays of execution can be ordered in state cases by the Governor of the State, a trial court, a state appeals court or state Supreme Court or a court in the federal judiciary (including the United States Supreme Court). In federal death penalty cases the trial court, appeals courts, the United States Supreme Court and President may grant a stay of execution. In all cases, the stay may be issued at any time, even when the condemned is being prepared for execution.
Setting of execution dates by jurisdiction
|Federal||Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons||Except to the extent a court orders otherwise, a sentence of death shall be executed on a date and at a time designated by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which date shall be no sooner than 60 days from the entry of the judgment of death. If the date designated for execution passes by reason of a stay of execution, then a new date shall be designated promptly by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons when the stay is lifted|
|Federal (Military)||Secretary of the Army||The Secretary of the Army, as the designated Department of Defense Corrections Level III executive official, sets the date and location of military executions. The execution date must be at least 60 days after affirmation of the sentence by the President of the United States. All sentences of death must be personally affirmed, in writing, by the President of the United States before the Secretary of the Army is permitted to set an execution date.|
|Alabama||Alabama Supreme Court||The sentence shall be executed at any hour on the day set for the execution, not less than 30 nor more than 100 days from the date of sentencing.|
|Arizona||Arizona Supreme Court|
|California||Trial Court Judge||The execution date shall not be less than 60 days nor more than 90 days from the time of making the order |
|Colorado||Trial Court Judge||The death penalty in Colorado was repealed in 2020.|
|Connecticut||Trial Court Judge||Connecticut's death penalty was repealed April 25, 2012 for all future trials. The Connecticut Supreme Court commuted the sentences of all remaining death row inmates to life without parole on August 13, 2015.|
|Delaware||Trial Court Judge||Delaware's death penalty statute was found unconstitutional in 2016.|
|Florida||Governor||After a stay of execution is dissolved, the Governor must set the new date for execution of the death sentence within 10 days. The Governor can grant stays. If a death sentence is not carried out because of unjustified failure of the Governor to issue a warrant, or for any other unjustifiable reason, on application of the Department of Legal Affairs, the Supreme Court shall issue a warrant directing the sentence to be executed during a week designated in the warrant.|
|Georgia||Trial Court Judge||The court shall specify the time period for the execution in the sentence. The time period for the execution fixed by the court shall be seven days in duration and shall commence at noon on a specified date and shall end at noon on a specified date. The time period shall commence not less than 20 days nor more than 60 days from the date of sentencing. A new time period for the execution -due to stay- fixed by the judge shall commence not less than ten nor more than 20 days from the date of the order.|
|Idaho||Trial Court Judge|
|Illinois||Supreme Court of Illinois||The death penalty in Illinois was repealed in 2011.|
|Indiana||Indiana Supreme Court|
|Kansas||No executions have occurred in Kansas since 1965.|
|Kentucky||Governor||The execution shall in theory be carried out on the fifth Friday following the affirmation of the sentence by the Kentucky Supreme Court. However, if the sentence is not carried out because of stays or any other cause, the governor may appoint another day of execution and may continue to do so until the sentence is carried into effect.|
|Louisiana||Trial Court Judge|
|Maryland||Trial Court Judge||Maryland's death penalty was repealed May 2, 2013 for all future trials. The governor commuted the sentences of the four remaining members of death row to life without parole on December 31, 2014.|
|Massachusetts||Trial Court Judge||Massachusetts' death penalty statute was found unconstitutional in 1984.- Section 57 - chapter 279|
|Mississippi||Supreme Court of Mississippi|
|Missouri||Supreme Court of Missouri|
|Montana||Trial Court Judge|
|Nebraska||Nebraska Supreme Court|
|Nevada||Trial Court Judge|
|New Hampshire||Governor||The governor and council or their designee shall determine the time of performing such execution. Death penalty abolished in 2019, but not retroactively. New Hampshire still has 1 individual on death row.|
|New Mexico||Trial Court Judge||When judgment of death is rendered by any court of competent jurisdiction a warrant signed by the judge and attested by the clerk under the seal of the court must be drawn and delivered to the sheriff. It must state the conviction and judgment and appoint a day on which the judgment is to be executed, which must be not less than sixty nor more than ninety days from the date of judgment and must direct the sheriff to deliver the defendant, at a time specified in said order, not more than ten days from the date of judgment, to the warden of the state penitentiary at Santa Fe for execution. |
Death penalty abolished in 2009, but not retroactively. New Mexico had 2 individuals on death row, however their sentences were struck down by the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2019.
|New York||Trial Court Judge||The death penalty in New York was repealed in 2007. The week of execution appointed in the warrant shall be not less than 30 days and not more than 60 days after the issuance of the warrant. The date of execution within said week shall be left to the discretion of the commissioner, but the date and hour of the execution shall be announced publicly no later than seven days prior to said execution.|
|North Carolina||The Secretary of Public Safety||The Secretary of Public Safety with the assistance of the commissioner of the Adult Correction Division and the Director of Prisons shall immediately schedule the execution date for a condemned prisoner pursuant to the original death sentence no less than 15 days nor more than 120 days from the date of receiving written notification from the Office of the Attorney General in accordance with current statutory provisions|
|Ohio||Supreme Court of Ohio|
|Oklahoma||Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals||code of criminal procedure of the State of Oklahoma, §221001[clarification needed]|
|Oregon||Trial Court Judge|
|Pennsylvania||Governor||List of execution Warrants Issued since 1985 At least 349 execution warrants were signed since 1985, but only three executions were carried out, because those three defendants waived appeals.|
|South Carolina||South Carolina Supreme Court|
|South Dakota||Trial Court Judge|
|Tennessee||Tennessee Supreme Court|
|Texas||Trial Court Judge||The first execution date may not be earlier than the 91st day after the date the convicting court enters the order setting the execution date. A subsequent execution date may not be earlier than the 31st day after the date the convicting court enters the order setting the execution date. The execution date shall be a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.|
|Utah||Trial Court Judge||The appointed day the judgment is to be executed, which may not be fewer than 30 days nor more than 60 days from the date of issuance of the warrant, and may not be a Sunday, Monday, or a legal holiday.|
|Virginia||Trial Court Judge||The death penalty in Virginia was repealed in 2021.|
|Washington||Trial Court Judge||Washington's death penalty statute was found unconstitutional in 2018.|
|Wyoming||Trial Court Judge|
- Bill of attainder (capital or other punishment of a specific person authorized by a legislature rather than a court)
- Fatwa (in the western usage of the term to mean a religious warrant to kill)
- 28 CFR § 26.3 - Date, time, place, and method of execution.
- https://fas.org/irp/doddir/army/r190_55.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- "Section 15-18-82". Archived from the original on 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2008-12-06.
- "WAIS Document Retrieval". ca.gov.
- "Statutes & Constitution :View Statutes : Online Sunshine". state.fl.us.
- "Statutes & Constitution :View Statutes : Online Sunshine". state.fl.us.
- "LexisNexis® Custom Solution: Georgia Code Research Tool". lexis-nexis.com. Archived from the original on 2009-05-02. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- "Kentucky Revised Statutes - Chapter 431". state.ky.us.
- "Section 31-14-1 — Warrant of execution upon judgment of death; time of execution. :: Article 14 — Execution of Death Sentence, 31-14-1 through 31-14-16. :: Chapter 31 — Criminal Procedure. :: 2006 New Mexico Statutes :: New Mexico Statutes :: US Codes and Statutes :: US Law :: Justia". Justia Law.
- "Time Of Execution. :: The Death Penalty :: Correction :: 2006 New York Code :: New York Code :: US Codes and Statutes :: US Law :: Justia". Justia Law.
- "Utah State Legislature". utah.gov.