Cornell Law Review Volume 90 Issue 2

Death Sentence Rates and County Demographics: An Empirical Study

This Article finds that, in addition to the number of murders, at least three other demographic factors influence the death sentence rate at the county level.  The rate of death sentences decreases as a county’s black population percent increases, as a county’s per capita increases, and as a county’s homicide rate increases.  More detailed study of black defendant-black victim cases suggests that the population percent effect is not merely an artifact of such cases comprising a higher portion of murders in minority communities.  Even within the class of black defendant-black victim murder cases, the death sentence rate decreases as a county’s black population percent increases.

 

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