Back to News & Commentary

Debunking the Death Penalty Deterrence Myth

Share This Page
January 8, 2008

Today Capital Punishment Project Director John Holdridge and Staff Attorney Cassandra Stubbs blogged on HuffingtonPost on the myth that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against homicide. This myth was debunked a long time ago, but a recent study by two Pepperdine University professors has reignited the debate.

John and Cassandra write:

The first glaring problem is the studies’ failure to consider alternate explanations for declining murder rates in recent years. The possible alternatives include, among other things: the increase of life sentences without release, the improved police “clearance” rates for felonies, and the waning of acute drug epidemics such as the crack problem of the early 1990s. Any study that doesn’t take into account these obvious factors can’t be taken seriously.

In other death penalty news, yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Baze v. Rees, the case that will determine whether Kentucky’s use of a particular three-drug lethal injection cocktail in executions is cruel and unusual punishment. The Los Angeles Times cited our amicus brief in an article discussing the case.

And last Friday, the high court agreed to hear Kennedy v. Louisiana, a case that questions the constitutionality of executing a person convicted of raping a child.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page