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The Deterrent Effect of Alternative Execution Methods

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  • Paul R. Zimmerman

Abstract

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..

Suggested Citation

  • Paul R. Zimmerman, 2006. "The Deterrent Effect of Alternative Execution Methods," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(4), pages 909-941, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ajecsc:v:65:y:2006:i:4:p:909-941
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    Cited by:

    1. Joseph A. Clougherty & Jo Seldeslachts, 2013. "The Deterrence Effects of US Merger Policy Instruments," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(5), pages 1114-1144, October.
    2. Dale Cloninger & Roberto Marchesini, 2006. "Execution moratoriums, commutations and deterrence: the case of Illinois," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(9), pages 967-973.
    3. Paul R. Zimmerman, 2010. "The Economics of Capital Punishment and Deterrence," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Crime, chapter 16 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Yang, Bijou & Lester, David, 2008. "The deterrent effect of executions: A meta-analysis thirty years after Ehrlich," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 453-460, September.
    5. Joanna M. Shepherd, 2004. "Murders of Passion, Execution Delays, and the Deterrence of Capital Punishment," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 283-321, June.

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