A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 30, 2008
Death Belt (death penalty states of the South)

The “death belt” is a term that some have used for the Southern states (especially Texas) that have the death penalty. The term “death belt” appears to have been coined in an August 1985 series of criminal justice articles in the Los Angeles (CA) Times, where the term was credited to an unnamed attorney.

“Death belt” follows many other American geographical “belts,” such as the “Bible belt,” the “rust belt,” and the “sun belt.” Areas with the most executions have been described as “buckles” of the “death belt.”


25 August 1985, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Executions—The South—Nation’s Death Belt Series” by Maura Dolan, section 1, pg. 1:
The South has become what one attorney calls “the death belt” of the nation.

21 September 1985, Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard, “Executions Make Dixie ‘Death Belt’ Of Nation,” pg. A4:
The South has become what one attorney calls “the death belt” of the nation. (...) The bulk of the executions have been in Florida, Texas, Georgia and Louisiana.

Time magazine
The Politics of Life and Death
Monday, Apr. 02, 1990
By RICHARD LACAYO
(...)
In the past 13 years, 121 executions have been carried out in the U.S., most of them in Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Georgia. The prospect that the Southern “death belt” will be joined by California has opponents of capital punishment worried.

Dallas (TX) Morning News
4 June 1990, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Death-case lawyers in South criticized; Report finds many are under-qualified” by Dan R. Barber:
Attorneys for poor defendants facing the death penalty in Texas and five other Southern states often are too inexperienced and unskilled to mount an adequate defense, the National Law Journal reported Sunday. In a six-month investigation of what it called the “Death Belt’ states—Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida—the journal found that the outcome of capital murder trials depended less on the law than on whether the defendant received a…

OCLC WorldCat record
Chattahoochee Judicial District : buckle of the death belt ; the death penalty in microcosm
by Death Penalty Information Center (U.S.); Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Type:  Book; English
Publisher: Washington : The Center, [1991]

New York (NY) Times
New York Bar Avoids Death Penalty Cases
By TERRY PRISTIN
Published: December 30, 1994
Long a leader in dispatching volunteer lawyers to handle death penalty appeals cases in the Deep South—known by some as the Death Belt—the New York bar has slackened off in recent years while the need remains as pressing as ever.

22 March 2000, Associated Press Archive, “Judge temporarily halts Tennessee’s first execution in 40 years”:
“The Bible Belt is also the Death Belt.”

17 October 2000, Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram, “Poor more vulnerable to death penalty, critics say” by Max B. Baker, pg. 1:
One Texas judge says the state is known as the “Death Belt.” (...) “Texas is called the Death Belt. Harris County is the buckle.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Fighting for life in the death-belt
by StephenB Bright; Jason Graham; Adam Elend; Jeff Marks; Ani DiFranco; E.M. Productions (Firm)
Type:  DVD video; English
Publisher: [Sunnyside, NY] : E.M. Productions, ©2005.

OCLC WorldCat record
Ineffective Counsel in the “Death Belt”: A Postscript to Roper v. Simmons
by C A Mallett
Type:  Article; English
Publication: CRIMINAL LAW BULLETIN -BOSTON- 41, no. 6, (2005): 598-615
Database: British Library Serials

New York (NY) Times
Rights to a Fair Trial (1 Letter)
Published: September 13, 2007
To the Editor:
Re “Official Quits in Georgia Public Defender Dispute” (news article, Sept. 7):

Georgia’s refusal to adequately fund the defense of capital cases is not an isolated incident. In fact, numerous studies have reported the same failure in the vast majority of death penalty states.

The problem is particularly acute in “the death belt,” which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Missouri, and now (once again) Georgia, among others. 

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, April 30, 2008 • Permalink