Execution warrant

"Death warrant" redirects here. For the 1990 film, see Death Warrant (film).
Not to be confused with Warrant of execution or writ of execution.

An execution warrant (also called death warrant or black warrant) is a writ which authorizes the execution of a judgment of death (capital punishment) on an individual. 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.

United States of America

In the United States either a judicial or executive official designated by law issues an execution warrant. This is done when a person has been sentenced to death in a trial court, 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 U.S. 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, where he or she will await 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 state

State Power Notes
Federal District Court Judge
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.[1]
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.[2]
Arizona Arizona Supreme Court
Arkansas Governor
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 [3]
Colorado Trial Court Judge
Connecticut Trial Court Judge
Delaware Trial Court Judge
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.[4] 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.[5]
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.[6]
Idaho Trial Court Judge
Illinois Supreme Court of Illinois
Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
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, because of stays, the governor may appoint another day of execution and may continue to do so until the sentence is carried into effect.[7]
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 Death penalty statute 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 .
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 [8]
New York Trial Court Judge Last death sentence reversed 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.[9]
North Carolina
Ohio Supreme Court of Ohio
Oklahoma Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals code of criminal procedure of the State of Oklahoma, §221001
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.[10]
Virginia Trial Court Judge
Washington Trial Court Judge
Wyoming Trial Court Judge


  1. https://fas.org/irp/doddir/army/r190_55.pdf
  2. http://www.legislature.state.al.us/CodeofAlabama/1975/15-18-82.htm
  3. "WAIS Document Retrieval". ca.gov.
  4. "Statutes & Constitution  :View Statutes  : Online Sunshine". state.fl.us.
  5. "Statutes & Constitution  :View Statutes  : Online Sunshine". state.fl.us.
  6. "LexisNexis® Custom Solution: Georgia Code Research Tool". lexis-nexis.com.
  7. "Kentucky Revised Statutes - Chapter 431". state.ky.us.
  8. "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.
  9. "Time Of Execution. :: The Death Penalty :: Correction :: 2006 New York Code :: New York Code :: US Codes and Statutes :: US Law :: Justia". Justia Law.
  10. "Utah State Legislature". utah.gov.
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