52 S. Cal. L. Rev. 743 (1978-1979)
The Deterrent Effect of the Death Penalty for Murder in California

handle is hein.journals/scal52 and id is 757 raw text is: THE DETERRENT EFFECT OF THE
This Article presents the results of an empirical analysis of the deter-
rent effect of the death penalty for murder in California for the period
1910 to 1962. Despite the length and intensity of the debate that has
surrounded this issue in California and in other jurisdictions, the avail-
able evidence is far from conclusive, and many important questions are
yet to be examined.' This situation is particularly regrettable in light of
the presumed deterrent effectiveness of legal sanctions, and the impor-
tant consequences of the application or misapplication of the death.
penalty as a means of dealing with one of the nation's most serious
crime problems-murder.2
Although most criminologists and other social scientists have long
* Associate Dean, College of Graduate Studies, Cleveland State University. Honorary
Fellow, Department of Sociology, and Visiting Associate Professor of Sociology, Institute for Re-
search on Poverty, University of Wisconsin, Madison. B.A. 1966, Central Washington State Col-
lege; M.A. 1969, Washington State University; Ph.D. (Sociology) 1971, Washington State
1. On July 2, 1976, the United States Supreme Court announced rulings in Woodson v.
North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976), and Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325 (1976), invalidating
mandatory capital punishment for murder in two states. The California mandatory death penalty
for murder subsequently was invalidated on December 7, 1976. Rockwell v. Superior Court, 18
Cal. 3d 420, 556 P.2d 110, 134 Cal. Rptr. 650 (1976). On August 8, 1977, a nonmandatory death
penalty statute for murder was enacted in California. CAL. PENAL CODE §§ 190.3-.5 (West Cum.
Supp. 1978).
As of the middle of June 1978, the latest date that figures are available to this writer, no
persons were under the sentence of death for murder in California.
2. It is of interest to note that in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), Chief Justice
Burger spoke of the lack of recent, clear-cut, empirical evidence on the deterrent effect of the
death penalty for murder and the urgent need for more recent studies on this important question.
Id. at 395, 403 (Burger, C.J., dissenting). Before vacating Fowler v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 904
(1976), the Supreme Court received briefs and heard oral arguments in five other death penalty
cases in which the findings of a number of post-Furman deterrence investigations were of major
concern: Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325 (1976); Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280
(1976); Jurek v. Texas, 428 U.S. 262 (1976); Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242 (1976); Gregg v.
Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976). Although no empirical evidence was cited, the Court concluded

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