1-He managed to escape from prison the night before off his own bat  and now has a huge bounty on his head. The PCs are trying to collect said bounty.

2-His sentence was commuted to time sent in a military penal unit and he was sent to the most dangerous part of the battle front.

3-She kept the king  amused with stories for a thousand and one nights and he gave her a pardon.

4-The gallows failed to work, three times, each time he was placed upon it. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. (Real Life example, John Lee.)

5-He was acquitted at the Appeal Court and set free.

6-He was allowed to become a monk and his death sentence was suspended indefinitely.

7-He was sent to die in the arena but fought so well that he has become a professional gladiator with a lot of fans.

8-The country abolished the death penalty when he was waiting to be hanged.

9-It was decided that it would be a worse punishment to make him into a slave for life.

10-She turned out to be pregnant so her sentence was commuted to prison time.

11-He once saved the king's life in battle so the king had mercy on him and sent him on a crusade instead of executing him.

12-He escaped prison and got  to a country that refuses to extradite those who face the death penalty.

13-He knows a very big secret and has arranged it so that if he is executed or murdered, others will leak the secret.

14-He was able to plead benefit of clergy.

15-The family of his victim agreed upon blood money instead of having him executed.

16-The family of his victim decided to have him incarcerated instead of having him executed.

17-He was (wrongly) found not guilty at his trial as he had a very good lawyer.

18-He was (wrongly) found not guilty at his trial as key witnesses were murdered by his friends.

19-He was so skilled that his death sentence was commuted as long as he agreed to work in a prison lab for the government.

20-The ruler was and still is too soft hearted to have executions carried out.

21-He's a priest of Mathom the God of Delays so  everything that could delay his execution, from axes going missing to execution warrants being used as toilet paper by mistake to executioners falling ill has happened so far. 

22-He was released in a prisoner swap.

23-His friends busted him out of prison.

24-He was sentenced to be fed to a dragon, but he somehow managed to make the dragon fall in love with him. Then he and the dragon burned down the city-state that condemned him to death.

25-His crime was small, and he was sent over the border to a country that does not extradite anyone who faces the death penalty. He was sentenced to death only so the other country could not send him back.

26-The sentence was commuted as the prisons are so dreadful that death is considered a lesser punishment then life imprisonment in the country where he is.

27-He is a bishop and bishops in his country and only be imprisoned, not executed so his death sentence was automatically commuted to prison time.

28-On the day of her execution there were twenty others waiting to be executed and the executioner had just died of a heart attack. She offered to execute the others if her death sentence was commuted, and rather then carry out the executions himself the sheriff agreed to that. She was freed as long as she became the executioner.

29-His lawyers tangled things up for five years, and in his country noone can be on death row for more then five years-after that their sentence must be commuted.

30-He was sentenced to death for being homeless, but the sentence was suspended for a year to see if his family would take him in, and they did, one month before the deadline.


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