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February 13, 2013

"Prosecutorial Discretion under Resource Constraints: Budget Allocations and Local Death Charging Decisions"

The title of this post is the title of this new empirical paper recently posted on SSRN and authored by Greg Goelzhauser. Here is the abstract:

Do prosecutorial resource constraints influence death-charging decisions?  Prosecutors typically contend that death-charging decisions are made independent of budget considerations, and the limited empirical evidence supports this view.  Using new data on death-charging decisions from 301 prosecutorial districts across 34 states, the results presented here suggest that the conventional wisdom is wrong.  The probability of facing a death charge is higher in prosecutorial districts with larger budgets.  The results inform our understanding of the politics of prosecutorial behavior and the policy debate over capital punishment.

February 13, 2013 at 09:01 AM | Permalink


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Understanding that this is an initial study, there are some variables implicitly recognized in the budget category that I would like to see tested further:

1) The number of prosecutors in the office -- while related to budget this criteria also impacts a different concern, the ability to handle the other duties of the office while dealing with the full-fledged motion war waged by the capital defense bar;
2) The availability of assistance from the state (both in funding and in sending attorneys to handle the case for the local prosecutor); and
3) The experience of the chief prosecutor and the leading assistants (some small budget offices also tend to be used as a training ground by the local bar for young attorneys).

Posted by: tmm | Feb 13, 2013 6:31:05 PM

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