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Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die? An Analysis of Prisoners on Death Row in the United States

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  • Laura M. Argys
  • H. Naci Mocan

Abstract

Using data on the entire population of prisoners under a sentence of death in the United States between 1977 and 1997, this paper investigates the probability of transition from death row to various possible outcomes (execution, death by other causes, commutation, and overturned sentence or conviction) in any given year, as well as the probability of commutation when reaching the end of death row. The analyses control for personal characteristics and previous criminal record of death row inmates and a number of characteristics of the state where the inmate is in custody, inculding variables that measure the degree to which the political process enters into the final outcome in a death penalty case. The results show that who lives and who dies on death row depends on the race and gender of the inmate, the race and political affiliation of the governor, and whether the governor is a lame duck.

Suggested Citation

  • Laura M. Argys & H. Naci Mocan, 2004. "Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die? An Analysis of Prisoners on Death Row in the United States," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 255-282, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:33:y:2004:p:255-282
    DOI: 10.1086/421570
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kubik, Jeffrey D & Moran, John R, 2003. "Lethal Elections: Gubernatorial Politics and the Timing of Executions," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(1), pages 1-25, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Loureiro, Paulo R.A. & Mendonça, Mário Jorge Cardoso de & Moreira, Tito Belchior Silva & Sachsida, Adolfo, 2009. "Crime, economic conditions, social interactions and family heritage," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 202-209, September.
    2. Mariana Martínez & Fabio Sánchez T. & Holly Kosiewicz, 2007. "Is justice blind? An examination of disparities in homicide sentencing in Colombia, 1980-2000," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 004460, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
    3. repec:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/693822 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Naci Mocan & Kaj Gittings, 2010. "The Impact of Incentives on Human Behavior: Can We Make it Disappear? The Case of the Death Penalty," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 379-418 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Sarah Marx Quintanar, 2009. "Man vs. Machine: An Investigation of Speeding Ticket Disparities Based on Gender and Race," Departmental Working Papers 2009-16, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
    6. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2014. "A Test of Racial Bias in Capital Sentencing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(11), pages 3397-3433, November.
    7. Ozkan Eren & Naci Mocan, 2016. "Emotional Judges and Unlucky Juveniles," NBER Working Papers 22611, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Wayne Geerling & Gary Magee & Vinod Mishra & Russell Smyth, 2016. "Hitler's Judges: Ideological Commitment and the Death Penalty in Nazi Germany," Monash Economics Working Papers 10-16, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    9. H. Naci Mocan & R. Kaj Gittings, 2001. "Pardons, Executions and Homicide," NBER Working Papers 8639, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. William M. Landes & Richard A. Posner, 2009. "The Economics of Presidential Pardons and Commutations," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(1), pages 61-88, January.
    11. Naci Mocan & Erdal Tekin, 2010. "Ugly Criminals," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 15-30, February.
    12. Briggs Depew & Ozkan Eren & Naci Mocan, 2017. "Judges, Juveniles, and In-Group Bias," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(2), pages 209-239.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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