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EDITORIALS: The Myth of Deterrence

In a recent editorial entitled "The Myth of Deterrence," the Dallas Morning News pointed to the many reasons why the death penalty does not deter murders: a majority of murders can be classified as irrational acts, and the perpetrators are unlikely to have considered the possibility of a death sentences before and during the crime; those who commit premeditated murder are also unlikely to consider the possibility of capital punishment because it is so unlikely to be carried out. "No rational criminal should be deterred by the death penalty, since the punishment is too distant and too unlikely to merit much attention," the News writes, quoting economist and "Freakonomics" author Steven Levitt.

According to the News, the arguments that the death penalty deters murder do not hold up to scrutiny. States in the South have a higher homicide rate than all other regions of the United States, and they also have higher numbers of death sentences and executions. The News asks, “If capital punishment were an effective deterrent to homicide, shouldn't we expect the opposite result?” Recent studies claiming the death penalty deters numerous murders have also found to be “fatally flawed.”


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New York City Homicide Rate Drops to Lowest Point in 40 Years

If current trends continue, New York City will likely have fewer than 500 homicides this year, the lowest number in a 12-month period since reliable NYC Police Department statistics became available in 1963. As of November 18, 2007, the police department logged 428 killings, the majority of which were committed by friends or acquaintances or were drug or gang-related. In fact, only 35 homicides this year were committed by strangers to the victims, a number described as "microscopic" in a city of 8.2 million.

Thomas Reppetto, a police historian, noted: "Not only has the N.Y.P.D. reduced murder, by nearly 80%, but it has changed the pattern of homicides." In 1990, New York recorded its highest number of murders at 2,245, with many of the victims being killed by strangers. Of the 412 murders this year, many assailants and victims had previous arrests for narcotics. Overall, crime rates in New York City are down 6.47%.


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NEW RESOURCES: Flaws in Recent Deterrence Studies

In a recent article in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Dr. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University describes numerous serious errors in recent deterrence studies, including improper statistical analyses and missing data and variables that are necessary to give a full picture of the criminal justice system. Fagan writes, “There is no reliable, scientifically sound evidence that [shows that executions] can exert a deterrent effect…. These flaws and omissions in a body of scientific evidence render it unreliable as a basis for law or policy that generate life-and-death decisions. To accept it uncritically invites errors that have the most severe human costs.”

Since the landmark Supreme Court decision in Furman v. Georgia in 1972, dozens of studies have been performed to determine whether future murderers are deterred by the death penalty. In the past five years, Fagan writes, a “new wave” of studies has emerged, claiming that each execution prevents 3-32 murders, depending on the study. Some of these studies tie pardons, commutations, exonerations, and even irrational murders of passion to increases in murder rates.


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CAUSES OF VIOLENCE: Experts Indicate Crime Can Rise When Funds are Diverted From Police to War and Terrorism

Funds for community policing programs have been significantly slashed in recent years, a development that experts link to the government's new focus on fighting terrorism. The U.S. Department of Justice provided $7 billion in federal funds for community policing programs between 1994 and 2001, but it has awarded only $208 million for local departments this year. "Many of those funds have been shifted to homeland security, which also is very important in this day and age," said University of Nevada criminologist William Sousa. "I think, though, in shifting those funds, people fail to realize that . . . [a] lot of terrorism goes on that's homegrown," he said, pointing to drug crime.

Many cities have had significant drops in the amount of federal funds they receive for programs such as putting more police officers on the streets and purchasing equipment designed to improve law enforcement's efficiency, and have had rises in crime. In Philadelphia, funding cuts have reduced the city's police force from 7,000 in the 1990s to 6,500 today. That city had 406 homicides in 2006, a 10-year high, and could exceed that number in 2007. In Camden, New Jersey, the number of uniformed officers has also dropped and only 20 of the department's 170 police cruisers are equipped with computers. Camden has had 31 homicides this year and is likely to surpass the 33 murders recorded in 2006. Camden's police executive, Arturo Venegas, observed, "Our capacity for responding and deploying intelligently as to what's occurring in the community -- that is diminished. It's easier to finance infrastructure in Baghdad than it is to finance infrastructure in Philadelphia or Camden, New Jersey." Venegas added that federal funds once allocated to train community leaders how to collaborate with local police were "the best tool for ensuring homeland security."

Though violent crime in most cities is yet to reach the levels of the early 1990s and continues to fall in some places, law enforcement officials warn that rising crime rates in some cities are a growing threat that must be addressed.


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Experts Explain Why the Death Penalty Does Not Deter Murder

Following the release of a new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health concerning the failure of deterrence in drug use, medical experts commented that deterrence also fails in the area of capital punishment. "It is very clear that deterrents are not effective in the area of capital punishment," said Dr. Jonathan Groner, an associate professor of surgery at Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health who researches the deterrent effect of capital punishment. "The psychological mind-set of the criminal is such that they are not able to consider consequences at the time of the crime. Most crimes are crimes of passion that are done in situations involving intense excitement or concern. People who commit these crimes are not in a normal state of mind -- they do not consider the consequences in a logical way," Groner observed.  Deterrents may work in instances where the punishment is obvious and immediate, neither of which are true for the death penalty.

Experts suggest that criminal behavior and the nation's murder rate may best be curbed by addressing the environmental and social factors that contribute to violent crime. Groner explains, "The murder rate is most closely associated with the socioeconomic health of the country. The murder rate in the U.S. was highest during the Depression. Also, the majority of people on death row are from the most blighted parts of the U.S. They are very poor and very impoverished. A very high percentage have mental health problems. Good access to health care and improving the socioeconomic health of our country's cities would reduce the murder rate more effectively than executions." Dr. Carlyle Chan, a professor of professional development at the Medical College of Wisconsin, adds that many people believe they can cheat the system and get away with their illegal behaviors, which lessens the deterrent impact of a specific punishment.

The youth-study's author, Dr. Diane Elliot, is a professor of medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University. She examined the deterrent impact of random drug testing in high school athletes.
(ABC News, October 22, 2007). See Deterrence and Studies.


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RESOURCES: New FBI Report Shows U.S. Murder Rate Unchanged Since 1999

The FBI’s recently released Uniform Crime Reports: Crime in the United States, 2006, revealed that the murder rate in 2006 rose slightly from 5.6 murders per 100,000 people in 2005 to 5.7 in 2006, but was at the same rate as in 1999 when use of the death penalty started to show marked declines. There has been little change in the murder rate in the intervening years when death sentences, executions, and the size of death row all declined.

As in previous years, the South had the highest murder rate in 2006 (6.8 per 100,000 people) among the four geographical regions. This represents a 3% increase from 2005 and was the largest increase among the four regions. Over 80% of the executions in the country have occurred in the South since the death penalty was reinstated. The Northeast had the lowest murder rate, 4.5 per 100,000 people. Less than 1% of the executions in the country have occurred in the Northeast.  Louisiana had the highest murder rate (12.4) and New Hampshire had the lowest (1.0).


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Discussion of Recent Deterrence Studies

The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has collected many recent deterrence studies, including ones by Hashem Dezhbakhsh, Paul H. Rubin, Joanna M. Shepherd, H. Naci Mocan & R. Kaj Gittings and others claiming a deterrent effect to the death penalty. These studies may be found here. The following are academic critques of this new research:

A report released on April 18, 2012, by the prestigious National Research Council of the National Academies based on a review of more than three decades of research concluded that studies claiming a deterrent effect on murder rates from the death penalty are fundamentally flawed. The report concluded: “The committee concludes that research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates. Therefore, the committee recommends that these studies not be used to inform deliberations requiring judgments about the effect of the death penalty on homicide. Consequently, claims that research demonstrates that capital punishment decreases or increases the homicide rate by a specified amount or has no effect on the homicide rate should not influence policy judgments about capital punishment." (emphasis added).  Criminologist Daniel Nagin of Carnegie Mellon, who chaired the panel of experts, said, “We recognize this conclusion will be controversial to some, but nobody is well served by unfounded claims about the death penalty. Nothing is known about how potential murderers actually perceive their risk of punishment."

The report found three fundamental flaws with existing studies on deterrence:

  • The studies do not factor in the effects of noncapital punishments that may also be imposed.
  • The studies use incomplete or implausible models of potential murderers’ perceptions of and response to the use of capital punishment.
  • Estimates of the effect of capital punishment are based on statistical models that make assumptions that are not credible.

(D. Nagin and J. Pepper, "Deterrence and the Death Penalty," Committee on Law and Justice at the National Research Council, April 2012; D. Vergano, "NRC: Death penalty effect research 'fundamentally flawed'," USA Today, April 18, 2012).  Read the NRC's Report Brief (4 pages).

Death and Deterrence Redux: Science, Law and Causal Reasoning on Capital Punishment: In an article in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Dr. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University describes numerous serious errors in recent deterrence studies, including improper statistical analyses and missing data and variables that are necessary to give a full picture of the criminal justice system. Fagan writes, “There is no reliable, scientifically sound evidence that [shows that executions] can exert a deterrent effect…. These flaws and omissions in a body of scientific evidence render it unreliable as a basis for law or policy that generate life-and-death decisions. To accept it uncritically invites errors that have the most severe human costs.” Since the landmark Supreme Court decision in Furman v. Georgia in 1972, dozens of studies have been performed to determine whether future murderers are deterred by the death penalty. In the past five years, Fagan writes, a “new wave” of studies has emerged, claiming that each execution prevents 3-32 murders, depending on the study. Some of these studies tie pardons, commutations, exonerations, and even irrational murders of passion to increases in murder rates. While many of these studies have appeared in academic journals, they have been given an uncritical and favorable reception in leading newspapers. Fagan takes issue with this lack of serious and adequate peer review by fellow researchers. He analyzed this research and found that "this work fails the tests of rigorous replication and robustness analysis that are the hallmarks of good science."(4 Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 255 (2006))

The Death Penalty: No Evidence for Deterrence: In an article entitled The Death Penalty: No Evidence for Deterrence, John Donnohue and Justin Wolfers examined recent statistical studies that claimed to show a deterrent effect from the death penalty. The authors conclude that the estimates claiming that the death penalty saves numerous lives "are simply not credible." In fact, the authors state that using the same data and proper methodology could lead to the exact opposite conclusion: that is, that the death penalty actually increases the number of murders. The authors state: "We show that with the most minor tweaking of the [research] instruments, one can get estimates ranging from 429 lives saved per execution to 86 lives lost. These numbers are outside the bounds of credibility." (The Economists' Voice, April 2006).

The Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate: A new edition of the Stanford Law Review contains an article entitled Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate. The article examines and performs comparison tests on recent studies that have claimed a deterrent effect to the death penalty. Authors John J. Donohue of Yale Law School and Justin Wolfers of the University of Pennsylvania state their goal and conclusions: "Aggregating over all of our estimates, it is entirely unclear even whether the preponderance of evidence suggests that the death penalty causes more or less murder." (58 Stanford Law Review 791 (2005)).

The Death Penalty Meets Social Science: Deterrence and Jury Behavior Under New Scrutiny: Robert Weisberg, a professor at Stanford University's School of Law, examines recent studies on deterrence and the death penalty, as well as other social science research ragarding capital punishment in the U.S. In The Death Penalty Meets Social Science: Deterrence and Jury Behavior Under New Scrutiny, Weisberg notes that many of the new studies claiming to find that the death penalty deters murder have been legitimately criticized for omitting key variables and for not addressing the potential distorting effect of one high-executing state, Texas. Later in the article, Weisberg examines studies on race-of-victim discrimination and on capital jurors. This article will appear in the forthcoming edition of the Annual Review of Law and Social Science. (1 Annual Review of Law and Social Science 151 (2005)).

Public Policy Choices on Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Critical Review of New Evidence: In testimony before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary regarding proposed legislation to initiate a "foolproof" death penalty, Columbia Law School Professor Jeffrey Fagan analyzed recent studies that claimed that capital punishment deters murders. He stated that the studies "fall apart under close scrutiny." Fagan noted that the studies are fraught with technical and conceptual errors, including inappropriate methods of statistical analysis, failures to consider all relevant factors that drive murder rates, missing data on key variables in key states, weak to non-existent tests of concurrent effects of incarceration, and other deficiencies. "A close reading of the new deterrence studies shows quite clearly that they fail to touch this scientific bar, let alone cross it," Fagan said as he told members of the committee that the recent deterrence studies fell well short of the demanding standards of social science research. (J. Fagan, Public Policy Choices on Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Critical Review of New Evidence, testimony before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature on House Bill 3934, July 14, 2005).

New Claims about Executions and General Deterrence: Deja Vu All Over Again?: A study conducted by Professor Richard Berk of the UCLA Department of Statistics has identified significant statistical problems with the data analysis used to support recent studies claiming to show that executions deter crime in the United States. In "New Claims about Executions and General Deterrence: Deja Vu All Over Again?," Professor Berk addresses the problem of "influence," which occurs when a very small and atypical fraction of the available data dominates the statistical results of a study. He found that this statistical problem is found in a number of recent studies claiming to show that capital punishment deters violent crime. The UCLA study conducted by Berk found that in many instances the number of executions by state and year is the key explanatory variable used by researchers, despite the fact that many states in most years execute no one and few states in particular years execute more than five individuals. These values represent about 1% of the available observations that could have been used by researchers to draw conclusions for earlier studies claiming to find that capital punishment is a deterrent. In Professor Berk's study, a re-analysis of the existing data shows that claims of deterrence are a statistical artifact of this anomalous 1%. (Published on UCLA's Web site, July 19, 2004).

Return to Deterrence


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NEW VOICES: Law Enforcement Officer Says Death Penalty is Too Expensive and Does Not Deter Crime

Jim Davidsaver, a 20-year veteran with the Lincoln Police Department in Nebraska, recently wrote a column outlining his support for legislation that would have repealed the state's death penalty. Davidsaver said he supported the measure, which failed to pass into law, because the death penalty does not deter crime and is too expensive. He noted that in his years of service with the police force he witnessed many horrific crime scenes, but none of the accused murderers was ever deterred by the death penalty. He wrote:

As a career law enforcement officer, I considered myself an interested spectator as the Legislature debated the bill, LB476, sponsored by Sen. Ernie Chambers, that would have replaced the state's death penalty with mandatory life imprisonment without parole and allowed the victim’s family to seek restitution.


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Deterence News and Development: 2005

DETERRENCE: U.S. Murder Rate Declined in 2004, Even As Death Penalty Use Dropped

Even as the use of the death penalty continued to decline in the United States, the number of murders and the national murder rate dropped in 2004. According to the recently released FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2004, the nation's murder rate fell by 3.3%, declining to 5.5 murders per 100,000 people in 2004. By region, the Northeast, which accounts for less than 1% of all U.S. executions, continued to have the nation's lowest murder rate, 4.2. The Midwest had a murder rate of 4.7, and the murder rate in the West was 5.7. The South, which has carried out more than 80% of all U.S. executions, again had the nation's highest murder rate, 6.6. (FBI Uniform Crime Report 2004, released October 2005). In 2004, the number of executions, the number of death sentences, and the size of death row all declined compared to 2003. See Deterrence and Executions.

New Resource: A Review of Deterrence Studies and other Social Science Research

Robert Weisberg, a professor at Stanford University's School of Law, examines recent studies on deterrence and the death penalty, as well as other social science research ragarding capital punishment in the U.S. In The Death Penalty Meets Social Science: Deterrence and Jury Behavior Under New Scrutiny, Weisberg notes that many of the new studies claiming to find that the death penalty deters murder have been legitimately criticized for omitting key variables and for not addressing the potential distorting effect of one high-executing state, Texas. Later in the article, Weisberg examines studies on race-of-victim discrimination and on capital jurors. This article will appear in the forthcoming edition of the Annual Review of Law and Social Science. (1 Annual Review of Law and Social Science 151 (2005)). See Deterrence and Resources.

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Murders in New York City Reach Historic Lows Without Use of the Death Penalty

Homicide figures for New York City show that the number of murders in 2005 may fall below 500, a figure that would be the fewest since 1961 and would bring the city's murder rate below the rate for the nation as a whole. So far this year, random murders and murders committed during robberies and burglaries have also declined. Experts note that both declines appear to be largely attributable to a greater police presence, fewer guns, and the decrease in random violence in the city that came with the waning of the crack epidemic. In Manhattan, the annual number of murders recently dipped below 100 for the first time since the 19th century. (New York Times, August 7, 2005). New York City's steady murder-rate decline began after 1990, five years before the state restored the death penalty. The decline in murders has continued since the law was struck down as unconstitutional in 2004. See Deterrence.

Expert Testimony Faults Death Penalty Deterrence Findings

In testimony before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary regarding proposed legislation to initiate a "foolproof" death penalty, Columbia Law School Professor Jeffrey Fagan (pictured) analyzed recent studies that claimed that capital punishment deters murders. He stated that the studies "fall apart under close scrutiny." Fagan noted that the studies are fraught with technical and conceptual errors, including inappropriate methods of statistical analysis, failures to consider all relevant factors that drive murder rates, missing data on key variables in key states, weak to non-existent tests of concurrent effects of incarceration, and other deficiencies.

"A close reading of the new deterrence studies shows quite clearly that they fail to touch this scientific bar, let alone cross it," Fagan said as he told members of the committee that the recent deterrence studies fell well short of the demanding standards of social science research. (J. Fagan, Public Policy Choices on Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Critical Review of New Evidence, testimony before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature on House Bill 3934, July 14, 2005). Read the full text of Fagan's testimony.

Murders in the U.S. Decline Even as Number of Executions Drop

Preliminary data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report for 2004 found that murders in the U. S. dropped last year by 3.6%. The number of executions also declined in 2004. In 2003, the South had the highest murder rate in the country, and that appeared to continue in 2004 even as the South carried out 85% of the nation's executions. The Northeast, which had no executions in 2004, had the lowest murder rate in 2003 and that position appeared to remain the same in 2004. The FBI's final crime report for 2004 will be available in the fall. (See FBI Press Release, "Preliminary Crime Statistics for 2004," June 6, 2005. Execution data from DPIC). Read the FBI's complete Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report (in PDF format). See also Deterrence and Executions.

DETERRENCE: Expert Testimony Discusses Recent Studies

Dr. Jeffrey Fagan, a professor at Columbia University Law School and a leading national expert on deterrence, testifed that recent studies claiming to show a deterrent effect to capital punishment are fraught with technical and conceptual errors. Fagan noted that a string of recent studies purporting to show that the death penalty can prevent murders use inappropriate methods of statistical analysis, fail to consider all the relevant factors that drive murder rates, and do not consider important variables in key states. During his testimony before committees of the New York Assembly gathering information regarding the future of the state's statute, Dr. Fagan stated:

These studies fail to reach the demanding standards of social science to make such strong claims, standards such as replication and basic comparisons with other scenarios. Some simple examples and contrasts, including a careful analysis of the experience in New York State compared to others, lead to a rejection of the idea that either death sentences or executions deter murder.... A close reading of the new deterrence studies shows quite clearly that they fail to touch this scientific bar, let alone cross it.

For a full discussion of the problems identified by Dr. Fagan, read the text of his testimony in PDF format. ("Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Critical Review of New Evidence," Dr. Jeffrey Fagan, January 21, 2005). See also, Deterrence.


Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Critical Review of New Evidence, is the testimony of Columbia Law School Professor Jeffrey Fagan, delivered to the New York State Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Judiciary, and Corrections on January 25, 2005. Read the report in PDF Format (145k).


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Deterrence News and Developments: 2006  

 

Number of Police Officers Killed Declines in Same Period as Decline in Use of Death Penalty According to a new report from the FBI, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty declined in 2005 compared with 2004, and was 22% less than the number killed in 2001. Fifty-five law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in 2005, 57 in 2004, and 70 in 2001. The South had the largest number of police officers killed, almost three times more than any of the other regions in the country. Twenty-eight officers were killed in the South, 10 in the Midwest, 10 in the West, and 5 in the Northeast.
(Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed and Assaulted 2005, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Oct. 30, 2006). DPIC note: during this same period of time (2001-05), there has been a decline in the number of death sentences, executions, and size of death row. The South, the region with the most police officers killed, is responsible for about 80% of the executions in the country since 1976. The Northeast, the region with the fewest police officers killed, has had less than 1% of the country's executions. See Deterrence and DPIC's report, On the Front Line. RESOURCES: New FBI Report Shows U.S. Murder Rate Unchanged Over 5 Years The FBI recently released the latest version of its Uniform Crime Reports: Crime in the United States 2005. The report showed that the murder rate in 2005 (5.6 murders per 100,000 people) was the same as in 2001, with little change in the intervening years. Death sentences, executions and the size of death row all declined during this period.

As in previous years, the South had the highest murder rate, 6.6, among the 4 geographical regions. Over 80% of the executions in the country have occurred in the South since the death penalty was reinstated. The Northeast had the lowest murder rate, 4.4. Less than 1% of the executions in the country have occurred in the Northeast.

The state with the largest increase in its murder rate was Alabama, where the murder rate increased 46%. The state with the largest decrease in its murder rate was Vermont, a non-death penalty state, where the rate decreased by 51%.
(Press Release and Report, Crime in the United States 2005, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 18, 2006, with death penalty notes from DPIC). See Deterrence (with a breakdown of murder rates by state and by year) and Studies. Researchers Find Flaws in Studies Claiming Deterrent Effect In an article entitled The Death Penalty: No Evidence for Deterrence, John Donnohue and Justin Wolfers examined recent statistical studies that claimed to show a deterrent effect from the death penalty. The authors conclude that the estimates claiming that the death penalty saves numerous lives "are simply not credible." In fact, the authors state that using the same data and proper methodology could lead to the exact opposite conclusion: that is, that the death penalty actually increases the number of murders. The authors state: "We show that with the most minor tweaking of the [research] instruments, one can get estimates ranging from 429 lives saved per execution to 86 lives lost. These numbers are outside the bounds of credibility."

The authors conclude that the evidence of deterrence is far too weak to rely on as a justification for the death penalty:
The view that the death penalty deters is still the product of belief, not evidence. The reason for this is simple: over the past half century the U.S. has not experimented enough with capital punishment policy to permit strong conclusions. Even complex econometrics cannot sidestep this basic fact. The data are simply too noisy, and the conclusions from any study are too fragile. On balance, the evidence suggests that the death penalty may increase the murder rate although it remains possible that the death penalty may decrease it. If capital punishment does decrease the murder rate, any decrease is likely small.
John Donohue is a professor at Yale Law School and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Justin Wolfers is a professor at the Wharton School of Business and a Research Affiliate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. (The Economists' Voice, April 2006). Read the article. See Deterrence and Studies. New York Conference to Address Aspects of Punishment in the U.S. The New School in New York City is sponsoring a research conference entitled "Punishment: The U.S. Record" to be held November 30 and December 1, 2006. The conference will cover all aspects of imprisonment and punishment in the U.S., but some speakers will focus on the death penalty. In particular, John Donohue III will examine recent deterrence studies and David Garland will discuss the function that capital punishment serves in society. Other speakers at the conference include U.S. Senator Barack Obama from Illinois (invited), Bob Kerrey, President of the New School, and Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights.
(New School Announcement, Sept. 12, 2006). See Conference Web site. See also Deterrence and Studies. South Retains the Highest Murder Rate in 2005 According to the FBI's Preliminary Uniform Crime Report for 2005, all regions of the country experienced a rise in murder rates in 2005. The Midwest had the largest increase (5.8%) and the West had the smallest increase (3.2%). Based on the increases reported by the FBI and the previous year's murder rates, the South again had the highest murder rate in the country-- 6.9 murders per 100,000 people--followed by the West (5.9), Midwest (5.0) and the Northeast (4.4). The rates for forcible rape were down in every area of the country. Final statistics will be available from the FBI in the fall. (FBI Press Release, June 12, 2006).

About 80% of the executions in the country have occurred in the South since the reinstatement of the death penalty. The Northeast, the region with the lowest murder rate, has had less than 1% of the executions. See Deterrence. DETERRENCE: Nevada Executions--11 out 12 Preferred Execution over Appeals Daryl Mack, who repeatedly noted that he would rather be executed than spend the next 20 years of his life on death row pursuing legal appeals, was executed Wednesday for a 1988 murder in Reno. Mack was convicted in 2002. He was the 12th person executed in Nevada since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977, and the 11th to waive remaining appeals at the time of execution. He was the first black man to be executed in the Nevada since executions resumed in the state.

On the same day that Mack was lethally injected in Nevada, the U.S. Supreme Court considered the issue of lethal injection in a Florida case. Many executions nationally have been stayed because of this issue. (Review-Journal, April 27, 2006) .

There have been 15 executions in the U.S. this year, down from 17 carried out at this time in 2005. This year's executions are nearly 60% fewer than the number of executions at this time in 1999 (36). See Executions and U.S. Supreme Court.

  NEW VOICES: New Jersey Attorney General Says Death Penalty Not Necessary, Not Working New Jersey Attorney General Zulima Farber (pictured) recently voiced her support for extending the state's moratorium on executions, noting that she does not believe the death penalty is a "necessary tool" for prosecutors and believes capital punishment does not deter crime. "I don't think it's a deterrent. And I understand revenge. I think some people deserve it. But I don't think it's a necessary tool. . . . I don't have a philosophical or religious opposition to the death penalty, I have a practical opposition to the death penalty," Farber stated.

There are 10 people on New Jersey's death row and the state hasn't carried out an execution since 1963, a fact that Farber argues does not make the state less safe. She notes that death penalty cases are very costly and there is no assurance that the results will be perfect. Costs, the needs of victim's family members, and questions about the fairness and accuracy of New Jersey's death penalty are among the chief concerns that will be addressed by a task force that New Jersey legislators established in January 2006. "I support the moratorium being extended. I would welcome the analysis of data and whatever the commission is going to look at and I would not oppose cessation," Farber concluded. (Associated Press, March 16, 2006). See New Voices and Deterrence. NEW RESOURCE: Researchers Retest the Deterrence Studies A new edition of the Stanford Law Review contains an article entitled Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate. The article examines and performs comparison tests on recent studies that have claimed a deterrent effect to the death penalty. Authors John J. Donohue of Yale Law School and Justin Wolfers of the University of Pennsylvania state their goal and conclusions:
  (O)ur aim in this Article is to provide a thorough assessment of the statistical evidence on this important public policy issue and to understand better the conflicting evidence.
...
Our estimates suggest not just “reasonable doubt” about whether there is any deterrent effect of the death penalty, but profound uncertainty.
...
We are led to conclude that there exists profound uncertainty about the deterrent (or antideterrent) effect of the death penalty; the data tell us that capital punishment is not a major influence on homicide rates, but beyond this, they do not speak clearly. Further, we suspect that our conclusion that econometric studies are highly uncertain about the effects of the death penalty will persist for the foreseeable future.
...
Aggregating over all of our estimates, it is entirely unclear even whether the preponderance of evidence suggests that the death penalty causes more or less murder.
  58 Stanford Law Review 791 (2005). See Law Reviews and Deterrence.  
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