The deterrent effect of death penalty eligibility: Evidence from the adoption of child murder eligibility factors

Michael Frakes*, Matthew Harding

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    We draw on variations in the reach of capital punishment statutes between 1977 and 2004 to identify the deterrent effects associated with capital eligibility. Focusing on the most prevalent eligibility expansion, we estimate that the adoption of a child murder factor is associated with an approximately 20% reduction in the child murder rate. Eligibility expansions may enhance deterrence by (i) paving the way for more executions and (ii) providing prosecutors with greater leverage to secure enhanced noncapital sentences. While executions themselves are rare, this latter channel may be triggered fairly regularly, providing a reasonable basis for a general deterrent response.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numberahp021
    Pages (from-to)451-497
    Number of pages47
    JournalAmerican Law and Economics Review
    Volume11
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Dec 15 2009

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Finance
    • Law

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