1977 - Oklahoma becomes the first state to adopt lethal injection as a means of execution.
December 7, 1982 - Charles Brooks becomes the first person executed by lethal injection.
1984 - Velma Barfield of North Carolina becomes the first woman executed since reinstatement of the death penalty.
1986 - Ford v. Wainwright. Execution of insane persons is banned.
1987 - McCleskey v. Kemp. Racial disparities are not recognized as a constitutional violation of "equal protection of the law" unless intentional racial discrimination against the defendant can be shown.
1988 - Thompson v. Oklahoma. Executions of offenders age 15 and younger at the time of their crimes are declared unconstitutional.
1989 - Stanford v. Kentucky, and Wilkins v. Missouri. The Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed at age sixteen or seventeen.
1994 - President Bill Clinton signs the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that expands the federal death penalty.
1996 - Execution by firing squad is used for the last time in Utah. The last hanging takes place in Delaware.
January 31, 2000 - A moratorium on executions is declared by Illinois Governor George Ryan. Since 1976, Illinois is the first state to block executions.
2002 - Atkins v. Virginia. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of mentally retarded defendants violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
January 2003 - Before leaving office, Governor George Ryan grants clemency to all of the remaining 167 inmates on Illinois's death row, due to the flawed process that led to the death sentences.
June 2004 - New York's death penalty law is declared unconstitutional by the state's high court.
March 1, 2005 - Roper v. Simmons. The Supreme Court rules that the execution of juvenile killers is unconstitutional. The 5-4 decision tosses out the death sentence of a Missouri man who was 17-years-old when he murdered a St. Louis area woman in 1993.
December 2, 2005 - The execution of Kenneth Lee Boyd in North Carolina marks the 1,000th time the death penalty has been carried out since it was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976. Boyd, 57, is executed for the 1988 murders of his wife, Julie Curry Boyd, and father-in-law, Thomas Dillard Curry.
June 12, 2006 - The Supreme Court rules that death row inmates can challenge the use of lethal injection as a method of execution.
December 15, 2006 - Florida Governor Jeb Bush suspends the death penalty after the execution of prisoner Angel Diaz. Diaz had to be given two injections, and it took more than 30 minutes for him to die.
December 15, 2006 - Judge Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court in San Jose rules that lethal injection in California violates the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
December 17, 2007 - Governor Jon Corzine signs legislation banning the death penalty in New Jersey. The death sentences of eight men are commuted to life terms.
September 2007 - The U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case of Baze and Bowling v. Rees, in which two Kentucky death row inmates challenged Kentucky's use of a three-drug mixture for death by lethal injection.
December 31, 2007 - Due to the de facto moratorium on executions, pending the Supreme Court's ruling, only 42 people in the U.S. are executed in 2007. It is the lowest total in more than 10 years.
April 14, 2008 - In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court upholds Kentucky's use of lethal injection. Between September 2007, when the Court took on the case, and April 2008 no one was executed in the U.S.
March 18, 2009 - Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico signs legislation repealing the death penalty in his state. His actions will not affect two prisoners currently on death row, Robert Fry, who killed a woman in 2000, and Tim Allen, who killed a 17-year-old girl in 1994.
November 13, 2009 - Ohio becomes the first state to switch to a method of lethal injection using a single drug, rather than the three-drug method used by other states.
March 9, 2011 - Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announces that he has signed legislation eliminating the death penalty in his state, more than 10 years after the state halted executions.