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The Deterrent Effect of Alternative Execution Methods

Listed author(s):
  • Paul R. Zimmerman

Using a panel of state-level data over the years 1978-2000, this article examines whether the method by which death penalty states conduct their executions affects the per capita incidence of murder in a differential manner. Several measures of the subjective probability of being executed are developed, taking into account the timing of individual executions. The empirical estimates suggest that the deterrent effect of capital punishment is driven primarily by executions conducted by electrocution. None of the other four methods of execution (lethal injection, gas chamber asphyxiation, hanging, and/or firing squad) are found to have a statistically significant impact on the per capita incidence of murder. These results are robust with respect to the manner in which the subjective probabilities of being executed are defined, whether or not a state has a death penalty law on the books, the removal of state and year fixed effects, controls for state-specific time trends, simultaneous control of all execution methods, and controls for other forms of public deterrence. In addition, it is shown that the negative and statistically significant impact of electrocutions is not driven by the occurrence of a "botched" electrocution during the relevant time period. Copyright 2006 American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Inc..

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal American Journal of Economics and Sociology.

Volume (Year): 65 (2006)
Issue (Month): 4 (October)
Pages: 909-941

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Handle: RePEc:bla:ajecsc:v:65:y:2006:i:4:p:909-941
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