DETERRENCE: U.S. Murder Rate Declined in 2004, Even As Death Penalty Use Dropped

Even as the use of the death penalty continued to decline in the United States, the number of murders and the national murder rate dropped in 2004. According to the recently released FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2004, the nation's murder rate fell by 3.3%, declining to 5.5 murders per 100,000 people in 2004. By region, the Northeast, which accounts for less than 1% of all U.S. executions, continued to have the nation's lowest murder rate, 4.2. The Midwest had a murder rate of 4.7, and the murder rate in the West was 5.7. The South, which has carried out more than 80% of all U.S.

New Resource: A Review of Deterrence Studies and other Social Science Research

Robert Weisberg, a professor at Stanford University's School of Law, examines recent studies on deterrence and the death penalty, as well as other social science research ragarding capital punishment in the U.S. In The Death Penalty Meets Social Science: Deterrence and Jury Behavior Under New Scrutiny, Weisberg notes that many of the new studies claiming to find that the death penalty deters murder have been legitimately criticized for omitting key variables and for not addressing the potential distorting effect of one high-executing state, Texas.

Murders in New York City Reach Historic Lows Without Use of the Death Penalty

Homicide figures for New York City show that the number of murders in 2005 may fall below 500, a figure that would be the fewest since 1961 and would bring the city's murder rate below the rate for the nation as a whole.  So far this year, random murders and murders committed during robberies and burglaries have also declined. Experts note that both declines appear to be largely attributable to a greater police presence, fewer guns, and the decrease in random violence in the city that came with the waning of the crack epidemic.

Expert Testimony Faults Death Penalty Deterrence Findings

In testimony before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary regarding proposed legislation to initiate a "foolproof" death penalty, Columbia Law School Professor Jeffrey Fagan (pictured) analyzed recent studies that claimed that capital punishment deters murders.  He stated that the studies "fall apart under close scrutiny." Fagan noted that the studies are fraught with technical and conceptual errors, including inappropriate methods of statistical analysis, failures to consider all relevant factors that drive murder rates, missing data on k

Murders in the U.S. Decline Even as Number of Executions Drop

  Preliminary data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report for 2004 found that murders in the U. S. dropped last year by 3.6%. The number of executions also declined in 2004.  In 2003, the South had the highest murder rate in the country, and that appeared to continue in 2004 even as the South carried out 85% of the nation's executions. The Northeast, which had no executions in 2004, had the lowest murder rate in 2003 and that position appeared to remain the same in 2004. The FBI's final crime report for 2004 will be available in the fall.

DETERRENCE: Expert Testimony Discusses Recent Studies

Dr. Jeffrey Fagan, a professor at Columbia University Law School and a leading national expert on deterrence, testifed that recent studies claiming to show a deterrent effect to capital punishment are fraught with technical and conceptual errors. Fagan noted that a string of recent studies purporting to show that the death penalty can prevent murders use inappropriate methods of statistical analysis, fail to consider all the relevant factors that drive murder rates, and do not consider important variables in key states.

Capital Punishment and Homicide: Sociological Realities and Econometric Illusions

Capital Punishment and Homicide
Sociological Realities and Econometric Illusions

Skeptical Enquirer Magazine, July 2004

Does executing murderers cut the homicide rate or not? Comparative studies show there is no effect. Econometric models, in contrast, show a mixture of results. Why the difference? And which is the more reliable method?

By Ted Goertzel


Life Without Parole

Death Penalty States
offering Life Without Parole*
(35/38 states) Alabama New Hampshire Arizona New Jersey Arkansas New York California North Carolina Colorado Ohio Connecticut Oklahoma Delaware Oregon Florida Pennsylvania Georgia South Carolina Idaho South Dakota Illinois Tennessee Indiana Utah Kentucky Virginia Louisiana Washington Maryland Wyoming Mississippi Missouri plus- Montana Federal Statute Nebraska Military Statute Nevada