State Studies

The following list is a sample of recent state studies focusing on issues of the death penalty.


  • The Death Penalty in Alabama: Judge Override (2011) — Study by the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama exposing the practice of state judges imposing death sentences by overriding a jury’s recommendation for life.
  • Alabama Death Penalty Assessment (2006) — Study by the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project found that Alabama’s death penalty failed to meet fundamental ABA standards of fairness and accuracy.
  • Broken Justice: The Death Penalty in Alabama (2005) — Study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), showing how structural and procedural flaws in Alabama’s criminal justice system stack the deck against fair trials and appropriate sentencing for those facing the death penalty.



  • Arizona Death Penalty Assessment (2006) — Study by the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project determining that Arizona’s capital punishment laws are plagued with serious problems.


  • California Cost Study 2011 — DPIC summary of “A roadmap to mend or end the California legislature’s multi-billion dollar death penalty debacle” from Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review by Judge Arthur L. Alarcon & Paula M. Mitchell.
  • California’s Death Penalty is Dead (2011) — Study by the ACLU of Northern California catalogs numerous intractable problems and waning public support which may lead to the end of capital punishment in the state.
  • Death in Decline ‘09 (2009) — A study by the ACLU of Northern California revealing that only three counties (Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside) accounted for 83% of the state’s death sentences in 2009.
  • The Hidden Death Tax (2009) — A study by the ACLU of Northern California on the costs of the death penalty found additional expenses due to a net increase in the size of death row.
  • Death by Geography (2008) — A study by the ACLU of Northern California examining the variation among California counties in seeking the death penalty.
  • The Impact of Legally Inappropriate Factors on Death Sentencing for California Homicides, 1990-1999 (2005) — A study by G. Pierce & M. Radelet published in the Santa Clara Law Review finding that the race of the victim in the underlying murder greatly affected whether a defendant would be sentenced to death.


  • Colorado Capital Punishment: An Empirical Study (2013) — Conducted by law professors Justin Marceau and Sam Kamin of the University of Denver and Wanda Foglia of Rowan University found that the death penalty in Colorado is applied so rarely as to render the system unconstitutional. The authors concluded that Colorado’s death penalty law is applicable to almost all first-degree murders, but is imposed so infrequently that it fails to provide the kind of careful narrowing of cases required by the Supreme Court in Furman v. Georgia (1972). In this groundbreaking study, the researchers reviewed all first-degree murder cases in the state between 1999 and 2010. They found that 92 percent of the 544 first-degree murder cases in that time span contained at least one aggravating factor that made the defendant eligible for the death penalty. However, prosecutors filed notices of intent to seek the death penalty in only 15 murder cases and pursued the death penalty at trial in only five of those cases — a 1% rate among death-eligible cases. The authors wrote, “Under the Colorado capital sentencing system, many defendants are eligible but almost none are actually sentenced to death. Because Colorado’s aggravating factors so rarely result in actual death sentences, their use in any given case is a violation of the Eighth Amendment.”


  • Arbitrariness in Death Cases (2011) — Study by Professor John Donohue of Yale University’s School of Law of death sentences in Connecticut finding that seeking the death penalty often correlated with the race of the victim and the defendant, and not necessarily with the severity of the crimes.






  • Indiana Death Penalty Cost Study (2010) — A state analysis of the costs of the death penalty in Indiana finding the average cost to a county for a trial and direct appeal in a capital case to be over ten times more than a life-without-parole case.
  • Indiana Death Penalty Assessment (2007) — Study by the American Bar Association calling for a halt to executions in the state because of concerns about the arbitrariness of the state’s death penalty.







  • Nevada Cost Study 2012 — A study by Dr. Terance Miethe of the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Nevada on the costs of the death penalty in Nevada.

New Hampshire

New Mexico

North Carolina


  • Report of Task Force Appointed by the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court (2014) The Task Force announced 56 recommendations for changing the death penalty, including:
    • Require higher standards for proving guilt if a death sentence is sought (such as DNA evidence)
    • Bar the death penalty for those who suffer from “serious mental illness”
    • Lessen the number of crimes eligible for the death penalty
    • Create a Death Penalty Charging Committee at the Attorney General’s Office to approve capital prosecutions
    • Adopt a Racial Justice Act to facilitate inequality claims in Ohio courts.
  • Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Report (2007) — Study by the American Bar Association stating that Ohio’s capital punishment system is so flawed that it should be suspended while the state conducts a thorough review of its fairness and accuracy.
  • AP Ohio Study (2005) — Study by the Associated Press of 1,936 indictments reported to the Ohio Supreme Court by Ohio counties with capital cases from October 1981 through 2002 finding that capital punishment has been applied in an uneven and often arbitrary fashion.


  • Fair Punishment Project (2016) — Analysis of case records, media reports, and opinions of Oregon legal experts by Harvard University’s Fair Punishment Project ofinding that two-thirds of the 35 people on Oregon’s death row have serious mental illness or intellectual impairment, experienced severe childhood trauma, or were under age 21 at the time of the offense.
  • Oregon’s Death Penalty: A Cost Analysis (2016) — Study by Lewis & Clark Law School Prof. Aliza B. Kaplan, Seattle University criminal justice Prof. Peter Collins, and Lewis & Clark law candidate Venetia L. Mayhew examined the costs of hundreds of aggravated murder and murder cases in Oregon finding that the average trial and incarceration costs of an Oregon murder case that results in a death penalty are almost double those of a murder case that results in a sentence of life imprisonment or a term of years, and that, excluding state prison costs, cases that result in death sentences may be three to four times more expensive.


South Carolina

  • Removal of African Americans and Women in Jury Selection in South Carolina Capital Cases, 1977-2012 (2016) — Study by Professor Ann M. Eisenberg of the University of South Carolina of jury selection in 35 South Carolina homicide cases between 1997 and 2012 that resulted in death sentences, reviewing the strikes or acceptance of more than 3,000 venire members for gender and more than 1,000 veniremenbers for race. The study found that prosecutors exercised their peremptory strikes at nearly triple the rate against African-American prospective jurors than against white prospective jurors and that the death-qualification process further impeded a substantial number of African-American jurors from serving, contributing to an overrepresentation of whites on death penalty juries. The gender study showed that, while men and women were excused for cause at comparable rates, both were struck more for views against the death the death penalty than for pro-death penalty views and women were 3.8 times more likely to be excluded for opposing the death penalty than for pro-death penalty views. Women were 1.4 times more likely to be struck for cause for opposing the death penalty than men and men were 2.3 times more likely to be struck than women for being unable to consider a life sentence. Prosecutors were 1.4 times more likely to peremptorily strike a woman than a man, and defense lawyers were 1.4 times more likely to peremptorily strike a man than a woman.
  • The Effect of Race, Gender, and Location on Prosecutorial Decision to Seek the Death Penalty in South Carolina (2006) — Study of homicide cases in South Carolina by Professor Isaac Unah of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and attorney Michael Songer finding that prosecutors were more likely to seek the death penalty when the victim in the underlying murder was white, if the victim was female, and when the crime occurred in a rural area of the state.


  • Tennessee’s Death Penalty Lottery (2018) — An examination of every first-degree murder case in Tennessee from 1977-2017 found that the facts of the crime did not predict whether a death sentence would be imposed. Rather, the best indicators were arbitrary factors such as where the murder occurred, the race of the defendant, the quality of the defense, and the views of the prosecutors and judges assigned to the case.
  • Tennessee Legislative Study Committee Recommendations (2009) — A 16-month analysis of the state’s capital punishment process by the committee with recommendations for achieving a more fair and accurate system
  • Tennessee Death Penalty Assessment (2007) — Study by the ABA detailing racial and geographic disparities in capital cases, poorly trained defense attorneys, heavy caseloads for those representing defedants, and inadequate procedures to address innocence claims.



  • Virginia Death Penalty Assessment Report (2013) — Study by the ABA focusing on the fairness and accuracy of Virginia’s death penalty system.
  • A Vision for Justice (2005) — Study by the Innocence Commission for Virginia of 11 wrongful conviction cases in Virginia finding that mistaken eyewitness identification is the major reason innocent people have been convicted in the state.
  • Virginia Crime Lab Audit (2005) — Study by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors finding that the Virginia lab’s internal review process was flawed and that labs had botched DNA tests.


  • Washington State Bar Report (2006) — Study by the Death Penalty Subcommittee of the Committee on Public Defense of the Washington State Bar on the state’s death penalty.


Feb 28, 2023

NEW RESOURCES: Interactive Display Illustrates Conditions on Death Row

A joint research project begun by two Texas uni­ver­si­ties illus­trates the con­fine­ment con­di­tions of death-row pris­on­ers, includ­ing areas such as vis­i­ta­tion, health care, attor­ney vis­its, recre­ation, food, and oppor­tu­ni­ties for work. The Capital Punishment & Social Rights Research Initiative has cre­at­ed an ini­tial info­graph­ic describ­ing the con­di­tions in…

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Sep 30, 2022

Report: Black People 7.5 Times More Likely to Be Wrongfully Convicted of Murder than Whites, Risk Even Greater if Victim was White

Black peo­ple are about 7½ times more like­ly to be wrong­ful­ly con­vict­ed of mur­der in the U.S. than are whites, and about 80% more like­ly to be inno­cent than oth­ers con­vict­ed of mur­der, accord­ing to a new report by the National Registry of Exonerations. The already dis­pro­por­tion­ate risk of wrong­ful con­vic­tion, the Registry found, was even worse if the mur­der vic­tim in a case was…

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Sep 23, 2022

North Carolina ACLU Challenges Death Qualification of Jurors as Racially and Sexually Discriminatory

Lawyers for a North Carolina cap­i­tal defen­dant have filed a sweep­ing chal­lenge to the method by which death-penal­ty jurors are empan­eled, argu­ing that the com­bi­na­tion of a process known as death qual­i­fi­ca­tion” and dis­cre­tionary jury strikes pro­duces a jury so racial­ly and sex­u­al­ly unrep­re­sen­ta­tive that it vio­lates a defendant’s right to a fair…

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Aug 29, 2022

Report: Racial Disparities in Death Sentences Imposed on Late Adolescent Offenders Have Grown Since Supreme Court Ruling Banning Juvenile Death Penalty

Racial dis­par­i­ties in U.S. death sen­tences imposed on late ado­les­cent offend­ers have grown sub­stan­tial­ly since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the use of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment against juve­nile offend­ers in 2005, accord­ing to a new report by University of North Carolina polit­i­cal sci­en­tist Frank R. Baumgartner

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Jul 20, 2022

New DPIC Podcast: The Death Penalty Census

Data from fifty years of the mod­ern U.S. death penal­ty reveal a sys­tem that is rife with error, filled with dis­crim­i­na­tion, [and] very, very dif­fi­cult to fair­ly admin­is­ter,” Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham says in the July episode the Discussions with DPIC pod­cast. The episode, a dis­cus­sion between Dunham and 2021 – 2022 DPIC Data Fellow Aimee Breaux about the launch of DPIC’s ground­break­ing Death Penalty Census data­base, was released July 20,…

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