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February 24, 2008

Can we learn anything from five months without executions?

The last execution in the United States was on September 25, 2007.  That date was the day that the Supreme Court's announced it would be reviewing the constitutionality of lethal injection protocols, and Michael Richard was executed in Texas that night after the US Supreme Court refused to block his execution.  Thereafter, however, the Supreme Court has blocked every subsequent state effort to go forward with an execution as it deals with the Baze case concerning the constitutional standards for judging execution methods.

As detailed in a number of prior posts, this extraordinary pause in executions provides an extraordinary opportunity for capital punishment research to examine and assess the death penalty in the United States at a time of extraordinary uncertainty. 

Is anyone trying to figure out exactly what has been happening with the death penalty over the last five months?  Though I would like to see sophisticated empirical analysis of capital realities during this five month period, I also would be very interested to hear informative anecdotes from folks working in the administration of capital punishment about whether anything has changed over the last five months other than the number of executions during this moratorium period.

Some related posts:

February 24, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Any research on deterrent effect will have to wait a while. There is a time lag in the homicide data. The problem with studying a national pause is that there is no control group to separate the effect of the pause from other national trends going on at the same time. Cloninger and Marchesini have written two articles on single-state pauses.

As for what is happening in the processing of cases, they continue, and when the Baze moratorium is lifted we may see a surge. The California AGs office has a list of half a dozen "mature" cases, meaning they have been through the Ninth Circuit panel decision stage. (I asked if "mature" meant they were over 21 years old. They didn't think it was funny.) That may not seem like a lot of cases compared to some other states, but it is about half the total number of executions from the restoration to last year.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Feb 24, 2008 8:14:25 PM

Actually, the cases are "mature" if they are over 18 years.--Roper v. Simmons

Posted by: ward | Feb 24, 2008 8:17:58 PM

In these past months, the US has plunged into anarchy. People feel free to commit crimes knowing that they won’t get the death penalty, a will simply have to spend the rest of their life in a hole. People are afraid to walk the streets. Once beautiful parks are deserted.

Posted by: S.cotus | Feb 25, 2008 3:19:56 PM

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