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Iowa Capital Punishment Laws

The Hawkeye State has been a microcosm of the national capital punishment debate. Commonly referred to as “the death penalty,” capital punishment was abolished in Iowa in 1965, although there have been numerous attempts at reinstating the penalty ever since. This is an introduction to capital punishment laws in Iowa.

History of Capital Punishment in Iowa

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Iowa’s original capital punishment law spanned the years from 1834 to 1872. In that last year, Quaker and Unitarian opposition to the death penalty successfully lobbied to abolish the death penalty. Capital punishment was revived as a legal penalty Iowa in 1878, however, in response to a statewide crime spree spurred by a national economic depression. Reinstatement of the death penalty was also an attempt to stem the rash of vigilante-led lynchings of criminal suspects in response to the crime wave. Although the death penalty was again abolished in 1965, many calls for reinstatement have followed reports of heinous crimes.

Code Section

Iowa Code 902, et seq.: Felonies

Is Capital Punishment Allowed?


Effect of Defendant's Incapacity


Minimum Age


Available for Crimes Other than Homicide?


Definition of Capital Homicide


Method of Execution


Capital Punishment in America

Iowa’s internal debate shows, the death penalty remains a hotly contested issue in American politics, even in those states without capital punishment. While current national polling shows about an equal split between a preference for the death penalty or life imprisonment, the use of execution and public support of the death penalty have been in a steady decline in recent years.

In 2014, only 29 people were put to death, down from 98 in 1999 and 52 in 2009. Most of the recent executions have occurred in Florida, Missouri, and Texas, while Connecticut, New Mexico, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have only executed death row prisoners who waive their appeals (known as “volunteers”) since capital punishment was reinstituted in 1976. Iowa, Kansas, and New Hampshire have performed no executions in that time.

Iowa Capital Punishment Laws: Related Resources

It seems like there is no end to the death penalty debate, even in a state without capital punishment for the past 40 years. And any criminal charge should be taken very seriously. You can find additional articles and resources in FindLaw’s section on Capital Punishment and the Death Penalty. You can also consult an Iowa criminal law attorney if you would like legal assistance with a death penalty issue.

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