Patterico's Pontifications


Study: Capital Punishment is a Deterrent

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 9:23 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

In a study based solely on Texas data, researchers from Sam Houston State and Duke University have concluded that capital punishment in Texas has a deterrent effect and has saved lives:

As many as 60 people may be alive today in Texas because two dozen convicted killers were executed last year in the nation’s most active capital punishment state, according to a study of death penalty deterrence by researchers from Sam Houston State University and Duke University.

A review of executions and homicides in Texas by criminologist Raymond Teske at Sam Houston in Huntsville and Duke sociologists Kenneth Land and Hui Zheng concludes a monthly decline of between 0.5 to 2.5 homicides in Texas follows each execution.

“Evidence exists of modest, short-term reductions in the numbers of homicides in Texas in the month of or after executions,” the study published in a recent issue of Criminology, a journal of the American Society of Criminology, said.”

The study covered data from January 1994 through December 2005 but the researchers believe the conclusions remain valid for subsequent years. The study considered whether “month-to-month fluctuations in executions could be associated with subsequent month-to-month fluctuations in homicide counts.” The researchers concluded there is an association.

A SUNY-Albany statistics expert contacted by the AP verified the study’s research methods and suggested “additional research examining homicides in nearby states where the death penalty is less active could add to the Texas study’s credibility.” However, not everyone is convinced:

“Teske acknowledged some experts disliked the results. He speculated criticism came from peer reviewers opposed to capital punishment.

“I have a hard time getting people to understand that this reports a scientific analysis of an issue and is not a political statement,” Teske said.”


22 Responses to “Study: Capital Punishment is a Deterrent”

  1. and that doesn’t include the people that might have been killed if the criminals were eventually released.

    my personal study demonstrated conclusively that no convict that was executed for their crimes ever committed another one afterward.

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  2. This study is obviously flawed: no Siberian tree ring data was included.

    Ed from SFV (1333b1)

  3. How unfortunate that this kind of work slams head on into the idea that it’s not the politically desired result.

    We’re in the information age, and yet so much of our academic world is obviously political. I guess it’s always been this way, and it’s just more and more obvious, so I should be pleased.

    I used to deal with Criminology, so I am familiar with the common and tired argument against the deterrent effect of capital punishment. I recall reading that Texas has a “far higher” murder rate than the rest of the country, proving that its death penalty doesn’t have a deterrent effect.

    The nation’s murder rate was 5.7. Texas’s was 5.9. Dramatically higher or about the same? Of course, this unseriousness about the facts was eclipsed by the horrible reasoning. What if Texas is a state with a lot of immigration of poor folks, with attendant social problems? What if its murder rate was close to the national average because the death penalty kept it from being much higher?

    Of course, these articles condemning the idea of deterrent effect go on and on about how some murders are crimes of passion and the death penalty is a distant concern for some killers. So what? It doesn’t deter ALL murder… it deters SOME. Some murders are not so impassioned as to override fear of the needle. Surely, out of the hundreds of people who seriously consider killing someone, some number (apparently 60 if this study is correct), we influenced, while many (most) were not. That’s deterrence.

    But will this basic reality be expressed widely?

    Dustin (b54cdc)


    Hey! Look at that! My best friend made headlines!

    I have a friend on death row.

    I know someone on death row.

    Someone I know is in prison.

    Nobody I know is in prison.


    That name sounds familiar for some reason.

    As the dog whisperer would say, the time to correct a dog is within seconds of the dog’s error. As child psychologists would say, discipline should come as close to immediately after the wrong as possible so the child will tie the discipline to the wrong.

    The death penalty is very much a deterrent. It definitely deters any who complete their sentences from committing crimes. It can also deter others from committing like crimes. At issue is 1) the sporadic nature of the sentence, 2) the rarity in completing the sentence, 3) the time lapse between the incident and the completion of the sentence, 4) the constant fight among criminal-enablers to eradicate the sentence, 5) the constant fight among criminal-enablers to elongate the time between the event and the punishment, 6) the 9th circus court’s errant decisions (found to be wrong 99.5 percent of the time 😉 ). I’m sure I could go on but I just ran out of digits on my left hand. 😉

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  5. California, in another Texas vs California comparison, provides an incentive to qualify for death row since inmates have a better situation and no risk of it all coming to an end. There are those who are now concerned about Obama using California as a model for America. I’m concerned.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  6. I’ll tell the truth, i am quickly souring on all social “science.” So even though this seems like common sense, i’m not crediting it.

    I always said to the people who claimed that the death penalty was not a deterrant, “great, if killing him doesn’t work, what will?” then i suggesting things like drawing and quartering. they didn’t like where i was going with that. lol

    A.W. (e7d72e)

  7. Did these Duke University researchers use the same methods and assumptions the Duke Faculty did when they condemned the Lacrosse players as racist rapists in spite of evidence to the contrary?

    Until the gross injustice Duke University Faculty inflicted on innocent students is brought out into the open and the guilty faculty and administrators made to answer for their crimes, I credit nothing that comes out of Duck University.

    The Duck University name on any report is itself the kiss of death.

    ropelight (bc3a03)

  8. DRJ: Thanks. The study is interesting but not surprising. We have always known that one of the things that makes punishment a deterrent is that it must be sure. In Texas, there is a sense that capital punishment is sure b/c they lead the nation in killing people.

    So, for other states to produce the same effect, they’d have to be killing people all the time, a la Texas. That’s not going to happen for various reasons.

    Swiftness of punishment is also a deterrent, studies have shown. But swiftness is not ideal in administering the ultimate punishment. For instance, it is also in Texas where strong evidence suggests an innocent father was executed. The father could have been spared if he had admitted guilt, but he refused.

    Thankfully, capital punishment is on the way out. The Wall Street Journal and NYT noted that the American Law Institute, which has for years provided the intellectual power in support of capital punishment, has essentially given up the work. It’s a full surrender.

    The conservative Supreme Court has taken step after step to restrict it, and states are tiring of the battle and the expensive appeals, particularly in rough economic times. Juries are less willing to administer it (even though polls still show majority support for capital punishment).

    It will only be a matter of time before we formally join the rest of the western world in ending this blood-for-blood barbarism. Then we can leave capital punishment with regimes such as China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, the Sauds — all the people we’re presently keeping company with in our continuation of the killing.

    ropelight – Your shot at Duke is silly. What does one thing have to do with the other? Duke is a top-flight and respected university. I can say that, and I went to UNC. Single-issue people are a trip.

    Myron (6a93dd)

  9. Also, DRJ: I think a good follow-up study is to look at a state whose executions represent the median, in terms of number of people killed. That might give a better idea of how or whether the deterrent effect applies in states that don’t kill all the time, which is the vast majority of states.

    But I guess I’m just echo-ing what the SUNY guy said.

    Myron (6a93dd)

  10. Myron, I always come away fron Duke grads with a perception that they are really impressed with their school but that they didn’t get much out of it. Pure anecdote, and totally unfair to base anything off it, but what has Duke contributed lately? I never read anything cutting edge from them in any field I follow. I hope you’re right that they are a good school with some problems, and not a completely corrupted school with some legacy, but its problems are pretty severe when you think about it.

    Mike K, you’d think California would at least make sure its Death Row prisoners weren’t treated better than the rest of the crowd. Stories like that LA Times one have a real impact in the minds of thugs. someone out there is going to make sure that if he’s caught it’s a DP case. It’s not like California hasn’t known for years that its death row is really just life row. Just make sure they don’t have it any better, and at least you probably aren’t doing any harm.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  11. Dustin: You won’t get any argument from me that plenty of Duke grads are full of themselves. And I’m not going to get too much into the muck of defending their academic reputation. But I will submit this, their Wikipedia entry, which lists some of their researchers’ academic achievements and notes that:

    In the 2010 U.S. News & World Report ranking of undergraduate programs at doctoral granting institutions, Duke ranked 10th.[6]

    Myron (6a93dd)

  12. Myron, My objection to anything that comes out of Duck U is based on integrity, or the lack thereof. Duck’s Faculty and Administration abandoned any pretensions of integrity when they turned a blind eye to the gross injustice perpetrated on the Lacrosse players by a large group of faculty in a well publicized rush to judgment. Many of the Duck faculty blackguards are still unrepentant, and all of which remain unpunished.

    You say Duck is top-flight and well respected, well permit me to doubt, unless you’re talking about infamy, because I don’t respect Duck’s stonewalling nor their continuing refusal to face up to their official misconduct. And, until they do, everything coming out of that rat’s nest is tainted with the stain of dishonor. If the good people at Duck wish to be respected and have their work respected, let them rid themselves of the sources of their corruption.

    In order to be respected, Duck must demonstrate respect for the rights of innocent Lacrosse players, rather than coddle the faculty miscreants who rushed to abuse those students.

    When the issue is injustice, then yes, I’m on-board. And, so likely would you be too, if you could see past the end of your nose.

    ropelight (bc3a03)

  13. “As many as 60 people may be alive today in Texas because two dozen convicted killers were executed last year…”

    Argument would be much stronger using Obama “saved or created” math…

    “As many as 1,000,000 people may be saved from injury or death today in Texas because…”

    Steve (d23a8a)

  14. Another TX v. CA comparison (H/T Instapundit)…

    CA has higher per capita wealth, spends more per child on schools, and lags TX by approx 2-yrs in learning at virtually all grade-levels.

    Too bad Educational Malpractice isn’t a capital offense.

    AD - RtR/OS! (88245d)

  15. It will only be a matter of time before we formally join the rest of the western world in ending this blood-for-blood barbarism.


    Why the fuck would we want to give up barbarism?

    CA has higher per capita wealth, spends more per child on schools, and lags TX by approx 2-yrs in learning at virtually all grade-levels.


    Michael Ejercito (b0a575)

  16. Surveys and studies on the death penalty sine 1970 have shown over and over again that, if properly but not over-aggressively publicized, the death penalty has a definite deterrent effect on crime. All crime, not just high-end felonies.

    The deterrent effect lasts about three weeks.

    That’s it. We know if it works and how. We know exactly HOW it works. If we wanted to make it work for us, we would time righteous executions, if we had them, to about one a month, regular as clockwork.

    luagha (5cbe06)

  17. The death penalty has certainly deterred Clarence Ray Allen and Tookie Williams from committing any more crime here in California.

    GeneralMalaise (68a574)

  18. Myron, killing innocents is just a minor blip on the radar for conservatives. The bottom line is that if we kill people who don’t look like us quicker than they kill us (whether they have before or not… they all want to, according to then we win.

    I disagree, but don’t stand around the food during feeding time, the swine will bite you too.

    intelliology (00d844)

  19. “I disagree, but don’t stand around the food during feeding time, the swine will bite you too.”

    Now that is just a mean-spirited, hissy-fit. Even swine have dining standards.

    Besides, libtards are much too stringy and tend to have an aroma of rancid vegetable beef soup unless marinated in a solution of bleach and lemon juice for at least three days before cooking.

    GeneralMalaise (68a574)

  20. intelliology? What’s that? Is intelliology to intelligence the same as astrology is to astronomy? And besides the dude’s (dudette?) racist. If you want to see racism in this country, look to the Dem Party history. Look to the Dem mouthpieces (Jesse, Al for starters). Look to the liberal blogsites. Look to Madge Sanger, the darling of liberals.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  21. A semi hijack;

    Hmmmmm. Oh well, killing them would just draw more of them I suppose.

    This was just over the hill from here, kinda makes one really pissed off. For sure reminded me of Patt’s excellent drive to through the criminals out first and without pausing!

    Immigration officials said Wednesday that both Roman and Chavez Reyes are Mexican nationals who are in the United States illegally.

    According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Roman was admitted to the United States legally in 1990, but was deported in 1998 to his native country because of criminal convictions.

    He was arrested twice after that for illegally re-entering the United States and prosecuted in 2005 in U.S. District Court in Arizona for that offense, according to ICE. Court records show he was sentenced to 150 days in prison.

    Utah state court records show that Roman has a significant criminal history, beginning in 1992 with a misdemeanor drug distribution charge to which he pleaded guilty in Fillmore. In 1996 and 1997, Roman was charged in Millard County in two different cases with a handful of felonies, including drug charges, receiving stolen property and a weapons count.

    He was sent to prison for up to 15 years after pleading guilty to one count of second-degree felony drug possession with intent to distribute and one count of third-degree felony drug possession.

    In the 1996 case, an informant told police he had been selling drugs for Roman for about a year, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in 4th District Court. The informant also told police he had traded a Tech 9 mm semi-automatic pistol to Roman for drugs, and that he believed Roman kept the weapon and a cache of illegal drugs in a back bedroom of his Delta area trailer home.

    On Sept. 15, 1998, Roman was released from prison into the custody of immigration authorities and deported.

    37 yr old mother murdered


    Oh and ropelight is spot on about Duke U. The gang of 88 should, every single one of them, been fired, the spineless prick of a president should have been fired, many of them should have faced civil rights charges and been imprisoned. Oh and YES it does effect the way that my brain will “consider the source” when almost anything comes up signed by Duke U.

    They have lost their credibility!

    When you have honor and credibility you don’t stand for the crap that went on with apparent approval from the administration and for sure at least 88 of the faculty.

    TC (0b9ca4)

  22. Proof?
    Comment by Michael Ejercito — 1/7/2010 @ 12:54 pm

    You can start here….

    AD - RtR/OS! (88245d)

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