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46 J.L. & Econ. 453 (2003)
Getting Off Death Row: Commuted Sentences and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment

handle is hein.journals/jlecono46 and id is 457 raw text is: GETTING OFF DEATH ROW: COMMUTED
University of Colorado        Cornell University
at Denver
This paper merges a state-level panel data set that includes crime and deterrence
measures and state characteristics with information on all death sentences handed
out in the United States between 1977 and 1997. Because the exact month and year
of each execution and removal from death row can be identified, they are matched
with state-level criminal activity in the relevant time frame. Controlling for a variety
of state characteristics, the paper investigates the impact of the execution rate, com-
mutation and removal rates, homicide arrest rate, sentencing rate, imprisonment rate,
and prison death rate on the rate of homicide. The results show that each additional
execution decreases homicides by about five, and each additional commutation in-
creases homicides by the same amount, while an additional removal from death row
generates one additional murder. Executions, commutations, and removals have no
impact on robberies, burglaries, assaults, or motor-vehicle thefts.
I have inquired for most of my adult life about studies that might
show that the death penalty is a deterrent, and I have not seen any
research that would substantiate that point. [FORMER U.S. AT-
TORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO at a Justice Department press
briefing, January 20, 2000]
EM-PIRICAL studies of the economics of crime have established credible
evidence regarding the impact of sanctions on criminal activity. In particular,
it has been demonstrated that increased arrests and police have deterrent
* We thank an anonymous referee, Steve Levitt, Michael Grossman, Ted Joyce, Craig Wil-
liamson, Michael Radelet, and seminar participants at Colorado University at Boulder Applied
Mathematics Department, Colorado University at Denver Mathematics and Economics De-
partments, the Graduate Center of City University of New York, the University of Denver Law
School, and the 2002 Law and Society Association meetings for helpful suggestions and
Michael Grossman and Sara Markowitz for providing us with drinking age data.
[Journal of Law and Economics, vol. XLVI (October 2003)
0 2003 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0022-2186/2003/4602-0017$01.50

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