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The Deterrent Effect of Death Penalty Eligibility: Evidence from the Adoption of Child Murder Eligibility Factors

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  • Michael Frakes
  • Matthew Harding

Abstract

We draw on variations in the reach of capital punishment statutes between 1977 and 2004 to identify the deterrent effects associated with capital eligibility. Focusing on the most prevalent eligibility expansion, we estimate that the adoption of a child murder factor is associated with an approximately 20% reduction in the child murder rate. Eligibility expansions may enhance deterrence by (i) paving the way for more executions and (ii) providing prosecutors with greater leverage to secure enhanced noncapital sentences. While executions themselves are rare, this latter channel may be triggered fairly regularly, providing a reasonable basis for a general deterrent response. Copyright 2009, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Frakes & Matthew Harding, 2009. "The Deterrent Effect of Death Penalty Eligibility: Evidence from the Adoption of Child Murder Eligibility Factors," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 451-497.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:11:y:2009:i:2:p:451-497
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/aler/ahp021
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    Cited by:

    1. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2011. "Econometric Estimates of Deterrence of the Death Penalty: Facts or Ideology?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(3), pages 448-478, August.
    2. Theodore Eisenberg & Christoph Engel, 2012. "Assuring Adequate Deterrence in Tort: A Public Good Experiment," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2012_07, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.

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