Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

New Evidence that Death Penalty Deters? Not So Fast!

My colleague here at Emory Law, Joanna Shepherd, is one of the economist-authors of the work on which Sunstein & Vermeule rely.  But in a more recent paper, Professor Shepherd reaches a more nuanced conclusion:  that in the United States, “executions deter murders in six states, . . . have no effect on murders in eight states, and . . . increase murders in thirteen states.”  She writes:

[E]mpirical analyses indicate that there is a threshold effect that explains the differing impacts of capital punishment. On average, the states with deterrence execute many more people than do the states where executions increase crime or have no effect. The results of this paper help to explain the contrasting conclusions for earlier papers: the deterrence or no-deterrence conclusion depends on the jurisdiction examined. My results also have important policy implications: to achieve deterrence, states must execute several people. If states are unwilling to establish such a large execution program, it may be better to perform no executions.

Joanna M. Shepherd, Deterrence versus Brutalization: Capital Punishment’s Differing Impacts Among States (draft, October 2004).

Also, consider--for what it's worth (I don't know what it's worth)--this comment that has been posted on the Sunstein-Vermeule paper:

Subject: A house of cards argument
Comment by:    Karl Keys
The entire work depends on research that has been debunked. The researchers in the studies key to the work, in many instances, have not permitted their underlying data to be examined by peers. Likewise, by moving the data just a few years in any direction you get entirely different results. Further, the data sets appear (again the underlying data is not available for critique) to be arbitrarily chosen to reach a desired conclusion.

Put bluntly, Sunstein and Vermeule appear to have spilled much ink and drummed up much hype on shaky data. Take away the shaky data and all you have is pure spin dressed up in pretty words.

Shame on them.


Perry, Michael | Permalink

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