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March 13, 2012

"The Delaware Death Penalty: An Empirical Study"

The title of this post is the title of this new piece on SSRN coming from a quintet of Cornell scholars well known for both death penalty work and empirical work.  Here is the abstract:

This article is part of a symposium that honors David Baldus, a great scholar and great man, a quiet man with a strong passion for justice.  We study the operation of Delaware’s death penalty in the modern era of capital punishment.  Our conclusions consist of three main observations.

First, Delaware’s reversal rate in capital cases, 44 %, while substantial, is also substantially less than that of other jurisdictions.  This may not be surprising, given Delaware’s emphasis for much of the time period on judge sentencing and that jury verdicts offer more opportunities for reversal.  Indeed, reversal rates during the jury sentencing period approximate the national average.

Second, judge sentencing in Delaware results in more death sentences, a result consistent with greater harshness being the motivation behind the statutory change to judge sentencing.  This effect, is more pronounced in Delaware than in other states.

Third, we find a dramatic disparity of death sentencing rates by race, one substantially more pronounced than in other jurisdictions.  Race matters in capital sentencing, as David Baldus told us more than a quarter of century ago, and we need to continue to pursue knowledge about where, when, and how it matters.

March 13, 2012 at 06:57 PM | Permalink


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