The impact of the death penalty on murder
Both history and daily crime sheets underscore a depressing capacity for human violence and inhumanity. Some scholars feel that eliminating capital punishment would be a step toward reducing the toll of human suffering, whereas others feel that retaining the death penalty will prevent some murders at least. Kovandzic, Vieraitis, and Boots (2009, this issue) provide a comprehensive ordinary least-squares (OLS) state panel data assessment of the most recent postmoratorium data available and reach a strong conclusion that the death penalty does not deter murder. This article is an important piece in the complex jigsaw puzzle that will illuminate which factors can deter which crimes under which circumstances.
Commenting on the Kovandzic et al. (2009) article are two scholars who have authored major articles that concern the impact of the death penalty on murder. Richard Berk (2009, this issue) speculates whether the deterrent impact of the death penalty is knowable given current data and methods, whereas Paul Rubin (2009, this issue) argues that “the weight of the evidence as well as the theoretical predictions both argue for deterrence, and econometrically flawed studies such as this article are insufficient to overthrow this presumption.” With virtually all positions represented by these three documents, I will discuss three recent new studies that I think address some of Berk’s concern and provide strong evidence to support that Kovandzic et al. are right.
John J. Donohue. "The impact of the death penalty on murder" Criminology & Public Policy 8.4 (2009): 795-801.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/john_donohue/80