Abstract: This review addresses four key issues in the modern (post-1976) era of capital punishment in the United States. First, why has the United States retained the death penalty when all its peer countries (all other developed Western democracies) have abolished it? Second, how should we understand the role of race in shaping the distinctive path of capital punishment in the United States, given our country's history of race-based slavery and slavery's intractable legacy of discrimination? Third, what is the significance of the sudden and profound withering of the practice of capital punishment in the past two decades? And, finally, what would abolition of the death penalty in the United States (should it ever occur) mean for the larger criminal justice system?