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Lethal Elections: Gubernatorial Politics and the Timing of Executions

We document the existence of a gubernatorial election cycle in state executions, suggesting that election year political considerations play a role in determining the timing of executions. Our analysis indicates that states are approximately 25 percent more likely to conduct executions in gubernatorial election years than in other years. We also find that elections have a larger effect on the probability that an African American defendant will be executed in a given year than on the probability that a white defendant will be exeduted, and that the overall effect of elections is largest in the South. These findings raise concerns that state executions may fail to meet the constitutional requirements stipulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in *Gregg v. Georgia* for the administration of state death penalty laws. This paper was revised July 2002.

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Paper provided by Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University in its series Center for Policy Research Working Papers with number 40.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:max:cprwps:40
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  1. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 2000. "The Determinants of Punishment: Deterrence, Incapacitation and Vengeance," NBER Working Papers 7676, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Isaac Ehrlich, 1973. "The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: A Question of Life and Death," NBER Working Papers 0018, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Poterba, James M, 1994. "State Responses to Fiscal Crises: The Effects of Budgetary Institutions and Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 799-821, August.
  4. Steven D. Levitt, 1995. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Policeon Crime," NBER Working Papers 4991, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1977. "Capital Punishment and Deterrence: Some Further Thoughts and Additional Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(4), pages 741-88, August.
  6. Jeffrey D. Kubik & John R. Moran, 2001. "Can Policy Changes Be Treated as Natural Experiments? Evidence from State Excise Taxes," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 39, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  7. Ehrlich, Isaac & Liu, Zhiqiang, 1999. "Sensitivity Analyses of the Deterrence Hypothesis: Let's Keep the Econ in Econometrics," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 455-87, April.
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