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BOULDER, Colo. –

Eighty-eight percent of criminologists do not believe the death penalty deters murder, according to a study by University of Colorado sociology professor Michael Radelet released Tuesday.

Radelet, who completed the study with attorney and CU sociology graduate student Traci Lacock, surveyed 77 leading criminologists on the death penalty’s effects on murder rates. The study was published in the Northwestern University School of Law’s Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

“The deterrent effect of a punishment is really an effect of two things â severity and certainty â and it turns out that certainty is a more effective deterrent than severity,” Radelet said. “In Colorado, if we wanted to reduce the homicide rate, we would spend our money solving some of the 14,000 homicides that we know of that haven’t been solved. Anything we can do to increase the certainty of apprehension is a much better deterrent than taking people we already know will die in prison and spending millions to determine the date and cause of death.”

According to Radelet, 40 percent of homicide cases in Colorado remain unsolved.

A bill sponsored earlier this spring by state House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, which was designed to abolish capital punishment, passed the House of Representatives with a 33-32 vote. The bill later failed in the state Senate.

Studies conducted over the last 75 years have supported both sides of the argument on the death penalty, some with similar findings to Radelet’s and some suggesting that the death penalty does deter homicides better than long-term imprisonment.

Other studies often compare frequency of execution with the murder rate in states that have abolished the death penalty and those that have not, Radelet said. He said those studies show Texas, for example, had a murder rate of 5.1 per 100,000 people in 2007 and has put 439 people to death since 1976, while Colorado had a 3.9 murder rate in the same year and has put just one person to death since 1976.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Colorado has three people on death row. The only person executed in Colorado since 1976 was Gary Lee Davis, who was given a lethal injection in October 1997.

Radelet sent the 10-question survey to 94 academic criminologists, particularly those associated with the American Society of Criminology. The survey was funded by a grant from the Tides Foundation in San Francisco.

Archived comments

Weld the damn doors shut.

dont@bugmenot.com

6/16/2009 5:24:54 PM

The “death penalty as deterrent” argument is ridiculous. It assumes that people committing murder are thinking ahead, weighing the consequences of their actions, and care about their own life.

It is a permanent and irreversible sentence in a flawed, error-prone system (see www.innocenceproject.org for examples).

fannywahoo@yahoo.com

6/16/2009 12:04:58 PM

It may be true that the death penalty is not a deterrent.But that is not the only purpose of the death penalty.There is the punishment aspect, too.Some people prove themselves to be so detrimental to the functioning of a civilized society that they need to be permanently removed.

FreeThinker

6/16/2009 12:09:59 PM

If you’re sentenced to death in Colorado, you’re more likely to die of old age in prison than to be actually executed.I’m sure the researchers factored that little tidbit of information into the whole “deterrent” discussion – not.

orion1

6/16/2009 12:25:52 PM

As shown here, and time and time again in the past, the threat of death seems to have no deterrent effect on whether the criminal will kill someone in the first place.

In my opinion, the government should not have the power to kill its citizens, period. Every power it possesses, it abuses. The death penalty is no different. Also, there is no recourse for someone executed in error. At least with someone in jail, you can let them out.

Being against the death penalty does not mean I like criminals or support releasing murderers after short prison sentences. I have zero problem with throwing someone in jail for life without parole if found guilty of murder.

bobmobber@hotmail.com

6/16/2009 12:59:57 PM

I think the death penalty is a 100% deterrent.Have you ever heard of anyone who was executed committing another murder?See, 100%!

PBHKW

6/16/2009 1:06:24 PM

“See, 100%!”

Yep, it kills off the innocent, too. 100%.

flaven

6/16/2009 1:14:43 PM

“I think the death penalty is a 100% deterrent. Have you ever heard of anyone who was executed committing another murder?”

Yeah, that’s not what “deterrent” means.

bobmobber@hotmail.com

6/16/2009 1:24:21 PM

there wouldn’t be any liberal/socialist bias in the study conducted by people at CU? Nah, that couldn’t happen, we are all sure they are 100% impartial and unbiased…. yeah. Study isn’t worth the paper or electronic ink it was written with.

Strt56

6/16/2009 1:34:59 PM

PBHKW appears to not understand the difference between deterrent and recidivism.

I’m against the death penalty for a variety of reasons, but I also think spending the rest of one’s life in prison is an even worse punishment.

RoseFromTheDead

6/16/2009 1:41:04 PM

Personally, I enjoy paying for murderers to get 3 squares a day, some recess, and health care, so I hope no murderers are ever put to death.

akhmadi

6/16/2009 1:44:56 PM

For the death penalty to serve as a deterrent the executions would need to be public and highly visible (something I am all for).

As it stands now the death penalty is largely about retribution, which is a morally flawed practice.

LTB

6/16/2009 1:45:50 PM

As long as non-Americans can be extradited from their home countries (e.g., Mexico) only on condition that the death penalty not be a consequence of their extradition, then Americans…all Americans…have a lower legal statusthan a Mexican citizen who comes here, commits a murder and is able to return to Mexico.

Since these deals have already been cut with the Mexican government and Mexican lives have been spared, it is no longer morally equivalent to execute any American criminal.

Mac_Ripper

6/16/2009 1:47:27 PM

ak: “Personally, I enjoy paying for murderers to get 3 squares a day, some recess, and health care, so I hope no murderers are ever put to death.”

Good for you for paying attention: it would cost you a lot more to throw the switch.

dirt: “there wouldn’t be any liberal/socialist bias in the study conducted by people at CU?”

Well, there’s moron — and then there’s ignorant moron. Read the article, IM.

flaven

6/16/2009 2:16:45 PM

the scary part about sociologists is that they truly believe they understand statistics.

bouldermeister

6/16/2009 2:34:56 PM

Posted by bouldermeister on June 16, 2009 at 2:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

the scary part about sociologists is that they truly believe they understand statistics.

ROFL!

BiggieSmalls

6/16/2009 2:37:16 PM

Tell me something I didn’t already need a study to know…

This is common sense.

mtbdad

6/16/2009 2:44:37 PM

“Personally, I enjoy paying for murderers to get 3 squares a day, some recess, and health care, so I hope no murderers are ever put to death.”

So, killing someone, to you, is an economic decision?Check.It’s good to know where people stand.

bobmobber@hotmail.com

6/16/2009 3:19:54 PM

Like I said, I just think it’s great that there are people in the country that actually deserve medical care and 3 meals a day, but they don’t get it.Meanwhile, murderers have a roof over there head, medical care in case of emergencies, 3 meals a day, maybe an hour of tv and some time outside.

These felons deserve it.Those law abiding innocents can just rot for all I care.

High five!

akhmadi

6/16/2009 3:31:11 PM

My 2 cents:Raise the burden of proof from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to “beyond the shadow of a doubt.”Hopefully this would decrease the # of appeals and eliminate any innocents being put to death.I’d personally rather see (and help fund) 10,000 people in prison for life rather then kill one innocent.There simply isn’t any way to justify the State killing an innocent person.

Or, we could put a few people on death row in a room with one knife and let them fight it out.The winner gets another six months or year in prison, then has to fight again.Put it on pay-per-view and we’d make some serious coin…

zoom

6/16/2009 3:46:04 PM

Great study.Ask a bunch of academics whether they think anyone has been deterred by the death penalty.Maybe they should ask some criminals instead (I may be assuming incorrectly that those two are not sometimes in the same category)

mjack

6/16/2009 4:17:15 PM

Ummm … I am obviously not as smart as mjack, but I suspect that if we interviewed criminals in general, and murderers in particular, we’d find that about 100 percent would not have been deterred.

Egghead

6/16/2009 4:44:19 PM

The only decent argument for the death penalty is to prevent a person you are absolutely sure did a heinous crime from doing it again. This includes in prison.

That was the only thing that kept me on the Pro side for years, but lately I’ve switched simply because it:

(a) costs more to go through all the automatic appeals process than to just keep them in prison for life

(b) very little deterrent as proven in study after study including this one

(c) how much time do we spend endlessly debating the issue in the media, especially when someone is close to their number coming up on death row? It’s just not worth all the time and energy to society in general.

And finally (d) the chance of an innocent. We’ve seen DNA exonerate far too may people recently to be 100% sure of anything.

boulderDan

6/16/2009 5:25:10 PM

Similar to what Egghead said, maybe they should poll the folks on death row? Did they ever think about the consequences? Hmmmm… nope.

And please make the executions more public. We want to watch.

katiekurt

6/16/2009 6:31:12 PM

The fatal flaw in the argument is the assumption that the Death Penalty should DETER.

Who says it needs to deter anyway.

Maybe it’s just fitting punishment for some of the most violent crimes against civilization.

The hangings in Jeruselem after Nuremburg did not deter further genocides, yet few would argue the hangings were unjust.

GabeMc

6/16/2009 6:54:46 PM

The death penalty is a lot easier punishment that salad tossing your cell mate for the rest of your life.

ExCo

6/16/2009 8:01:30 PM

Execution of murderers reduces the recidivism rate to zero.

BillK

6/16/2009 11:33:48 PM

For those convicts only, assuming they are actually guilty. The rest of the convicts could care less, and recidivism rates remain the same.

ExCo

6/16/2009 11:48:36 PM

Sorry, but I don’t believe the report. Having experienced Radelet’s fanatical anti-death penalty attitude at the Univ. of Florida, I am totally suspicious of anything he says or does. I told students of mine not to even mention they ever had me for classes.

DreamerUSA2008

6/17/2009 2:23:55 AM

of course if we interviewed the others that were deterred by the death penalty we’d probably get a different answer.

It is this fact and the ones posted above that make you realize sociologists are not doing any type of experiment at all, just using stats to make meaningless graphs that convince idiots to believe them.

bouldermeister

6/17/2009 6:49:18 AM

As long as DNA evidence keeps overturning convictions, the death penalty should be abolished.

ExCo

6/17/2009 10:22:56 AM

“”Eighty-eight percent of criminologists do not believe the death penalty deters murder, according to a study by University of Colorado sociology professor Michael Radelet released Tuesday.”

How exactly do you measure the number of murders that didn’t happen?

bobcat77

6/17/2009 12:53:53 PM

“How exactly do you measure the number of murders that didn’t happen?”

You compare trends in areas that have the death penalty and those that don’t, you account for the major variables, and you see if there would be statistically significantly fewer murders in the areas that have it.Basic stats.But, you’re probably a PhD in stats, so you will no doubt disagree.

bobmobber@hotmail.com

6/17/2009 1:12:23 PM

The death penalty, given the system of mandatory appeals and delays in the carrying out of said sentence, historically is more costly than life imprisonment. As a deterrent, it is less than effective: it is not sought in all cases where it may be applicable, it is not swift, it is not applied fairly, and it is sometimes an innocent person unfairly convicted (hence the mandatory appeals).Add that to many murderers underestimate their chances of being caught (if they are thinking it through at all)…

I will agree with historical bias is the application of the death penalty along racial lines–however, some (not all, in any way, shape, or form) of this bias can be explained by economic and social differences, not out and out racism. A person of lower economic means and/or less education, along with social reinforcement of violence/crime as a legitimate pursuit will tend to commit capital crimes at a higher rate. An unfortunate truth, that a person fitting the above description in America tends to be a minority. Not because they are black…but because of the social circumstances of their upbringing.

That being said, unless ALL persons of lesser circumstances commit violent crime, background is no excuse. While it may explain, you still did the crime.

Anyway, despite all the reasons the death penalty is ineffective, I support the death penalty (I’m sure I’ll get a few “what an idiot” comment from that). While not religious, I do believe that certain actions simply deprive you of the right to life. Period. You don’t get to live anymore. Top on this list is purposely depriving another person of their life. Rape of a child is another. I’m sure there are a few others, but this post is getting long.

This is not an issue of whether the gov’t should have a right to “kill” its citizens…this is an issue of the murderer breaking the social order, and an organization, with due process in place, should be empowered to carry out the punishment for such an act. This is the government, slappy. The government is not an independent, outside actor in this exchange…it is our representative. It is us, even though a few of us cannot bring ourselves to the final conclusion.

BBanker

6/17/2009 3:12:22 PM

bobmobber, you MUST include the actions of the murderer in your train of thought. The government, and I, do not want to kill the innocent. We want to punish the guilty. For all the innocent freed from death row, there are many, many more who really did it.

Yes, executing the innocent IS too high a price to pay. But the solution (no, I don’t have a road-map for how) is to make sure those innocents do not get executed, not to absolve the guilty.

BBanker

6/17/2009 3:18:51 PM

2 guys just got the death penalty for killing a witness.My contention is that others thinking about killing witnesses will remember those guys who just got the death penalty, and there’s a good chance they will try to think of some other way to get acquitted at trial, like hiring Kobe’s defense lawyer or something.

Your contention may be the opposite and that’s fine.The point is, no academic study can prove or disprove the proposition, no matter how many “major variables” it supposedly accounts for.It’s just professors talking to other professors.Not a good basis to build policy in the real world.

mjack

6/17/2009 3:56:04 PM

“Death penalty doesn’t deter murder”

Duh!

What next? — the Earth isn’t the center of the Universe?

Hint: Death is NOT a Penalty

Fee_Waybill

6/17/2009 5:30:42 PM

BBanker: “Yes, executing the innocent IS too high a price to pay. But the solution (no, I don’t have a road-map for how) is to make sure those innocents do not get executed, not to absolve the guilty.”

I already said I was not anti-punishment.The rest of your life in jail without a chance of parole is no picnic and certainly not absolution.Far from it.Many people WOULD rather be dead than spend the rest of their life in jail.

bobmobber@hotmail.com

6/17/2009 8:27:23 PM

The ‘death penalty’ in Colorado reminds me of the Exer-cycle in my basement; I don’t use it, either, and for some odd reason, it hasn’t scared off those extra pounds… if only I were more PRO-active… Nah!

loosecannon

6/17/2009 9:48:02 PM

“Many people WOULD rather be dead than spend the rest of their life in jail.”

Heck, many people would rather be dead than live the rest of their lives outside of jail, hence the rising trend of SUICIDES as the fallout from the disastrous Bu$h/Cheney regime continues to destroy American families and lives.

Suicide [and Death] is Painless …

Fee_Waybill

6/17/2009 10:04:23 PM

It may not deter murder, but it sure keeps the killer from being turned back out into society to do it again.

You want to save money? Give them one appeal. Period.

koldkase

6/18/2009 12:00:27 AM

“Similar to what Egghead said, maybe they should poll the folks on death row? Did they ever think about the consequences? Hmmmm… nope.”

Of course they thought about the consequences but they just hoped they would be part of the 40 percent of unsolved murder cases.

So….”revenge” is not…uh….”moral?” By which of the two sections of the Bible? The Old Testament, Jewish text, recommends an “eye for an eye.”

You can’t be talking about the New Testament, that would be endorsing Christianity and that is just not done in Boulder, not even in their “churches.” I mean, how could anyone in Boulder recover from their hangovers, go biking two abreast and sit around Moe’s with a bagel and the NY Times if they had to go to Church on Sundays??? They would never get the book review read!!!!!

BoulderOldTimer

6/18/2009 9:34:07 AM

“2 guys just got the death penalty for killing a witness. My contention is that others thinking about killing witnesses will remember those guys who just got the death penalty, and there’s a good chance they will try to think of some other way to get acquitted at trial, like hiring Kobe’s defense lawyer or something.”

If the threat of the DP did not deter them from killing someone in the first place, why would it deter them from killing witnesses?In fact, they killed the witnesses in an attempt to AVOID a conviction, hence avoid the possibility of a death sentence.One could make the case that the thread of death as a penalty gives people nothing to lose, so they may kill more.

bobmobber@hotmail.com

6/18/2009 11:09:43 AM

bobmobber, unfortunately you are misinformed about the cases.The death penalty was not on the table for either of those guys for their first murder.Death was sought in a second trial for the killing of a witness who was going to testify in the first murder trial.

The first murder was (put crudely) typical.Nobody gets the death penalty in Colorado for a simple gang killing.So there wouldn’t be a death penalty deterrent for something like that.It was the witness killing that took it up to the death penalty area.Going forward, people now realize going after witnesses brings the ultimate punishment, and anyone who has been a victim of a crime or wants criminals prosecuted effectively should be thankful for that.

mjack

6/18/2009 2:18:49 PM

“The first murder was (put crudely) typical. Nobody gets the death penalty in Colorado for a simple gang killing. So there wouldn’t be a death penalty deterrent for something like that. It was the witness killing that took it up to the death penalty area. Going forward, people now realize going after witnesses brings the ultimate punishment, and anyone who has been a victim of a crime or wants criminals prosecuted effectively should be thankful for that.”

You’re giving criminals WAY too much credit for thinking.People don’t think about the consequences, because they don’t think they are going to get caught (or they act without thinking at all).Do you REALLY think someone says “well, I stand a very good chance of spending my life in jail if I get caught, but I probably won’t get the death penalty for just this one killing” before killing someone?Of course they don’t.If the threat of life in prison is not a deterrent, the threat of death is not a deterrent.

bobmobber@hotmail.com

6/18/2009 5:54:46 PM

“people now realize going after witnesses brings the ultimate punishment,”

1) you failed to establish that death is a punishment, especially contrasted with every moment of one’s natural life locked inside a cage.

2) “people” may be scared to take out witnesses, but killers realize and know that without witnesses it is often impossible for DA’s to obtain a conviction, and that potential witnesses get the message that snitching = death.

Murder is the 2nd LEAST solved crime in the U$A … exactly because the primary witness to the crime is unable to testify from the grave.

Fee_Waybill

6/18/2009 10:10:50 PM

Breaking News:

Court rules that DNA testing is not a prisoner’s right

– â Ž20 minutes agoâ Ž

WASHINGTON | The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that prisoners have no constitutional right to DNA testing that might prove their innocence …

Fee_Waybill

6/18/2009 10:40:15 PM

Ms. Miller:

You should have fact checked.

There appears to be a lot of confusion, with regard to the actual findings of the subject review/survey(hereinafter “Survey”).

100% (or 77) of the criminologists agree that the death penalty may deter some. (question 12)

It is a rational conclusion. All prospects of a negative outcome/consequence deter the behavior of some. It is a truism.

61% (or 46) of the criminologists found some support for the deterrent effects of the death penalty through the empirical, social science studies. (question 8)

16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses (2), find for death penalty deterrence

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life. No surprise.

The question is not “Does the death penalty deter?” It does. The question is “Will there every be full agreement on how much the death penalty deters?” There won’t be.

The first three Survey questions are specific to murder rates and deterrence. Both reason and social science have known, for a very long time, that murder rates are not how deterrence is established.

For example, look at crime rates. Some jurisdictions have high crime rates, some low – from year to year crime rates go up, down or stay, roughly,the same. In all of those circumstances, we know that some potential criminals are deterred from committing crimes by fear of sanction.

It is the same with all which deters, inclusive of the death penalty. Whether murder rates go up or down, whether they are high or low, there will be fewer net murders with the death penalty and more net murders without it.

Statement 6 “The death penalty significantly reduces the number of homicides”. Nearly 57% (or 43) of criminologists said the statement was totally inaccurate.

How do the authors quantify a “significant reduction” in murders? They don’t. Therefore, no one has a clue as to what the authors or respondents meant.

How many innocent lives saved by deterrence is insignificant? There is no insignificant number.

One deterred is significant if it is your child’s life saved. Is 2-5 innocents saved per year or per execution a significant reduction? 11-25, 112-210, 1800-2800? What is a “significant reduction” in homicides for these 43 criminologists?

There is a reason Radelet/Lacock didn’t say: “The death penalty deters no one.” No one can rationally, or truthfully, make such a statement.

There is a reason Radelet/Lacock didn’t ask: “Can you prove the death penalty does not deter some who were not deterred by a life sentence?” Answer: Of course not.

Full response

http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/07/02/deterrence-and-the-death-penalty-a-reply-to-radelet-and-lacock.aspx

dudleysharp

7/3/2009 9:34:19 AM

Ms. Miller:

Beware of anyone using murder rates and executions to suggest deterrence valuses.

Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let’s be clear

by Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, 0609

There is a constant within all jurisdictions — negative consequences will always deter some – it is a truism. The question is not “Can we prove that the death penalty acts to deter some?” Of course it does. The question is “Can we prove the death penalty does not deter some?” Of course not.

Whether a jurisdiction has high murder rates or low ones, rather rising or lowering rates, the presence of the death penalty will produce fewer net murders, the absence of the death penalty will produce more net murders.

It is just like crime rates or the rates at which people speed in their cars, whether a jurisdiction has the highest such rates or the lowest of such rates, there will always be some, in all jurisdictions, who don’t commit crimes because of the deterrence of fear of incarceration and don’t speed because of the deterrence of speeding violations, resulting in criminal prosecution and higher insurance costs. It is the same with all things that deter, all prospectsof a negative outcome.

The Poor Model

In their story, “States With No Death Penalty Share Lower Homicide Rates”, The New York Times did their best to illustrate that the death penalty was not a deterrent, by showing that the average murder rate in death penalty states was higher than the average rate in non death penalty states and, it is. (1)

What the Times failed to observe is that their own study confirmed that you can’t simply compare those averages to make that determination regarding deterrence.

As one observer stated: “The Times story does nothing more than repeat the dumbest of all dumb mistakes â taking the murder rate in a traditionally high-homicide state with capital punishment (like Texas) and comparing it to a traditionally low-homicide state with no death penalty (like North Dakota) and concluding that the death penalty doesn’t work at all. Even this comparison doesn’t work so well. The Times own graph shows Texas, where murder rates were 40 percent above Michigan’s in 1991, has now fallen below Michigan . . .”. (2)

Full article

http://www.postchronicle.com/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=128&num=217819

dudleysharp

7/3/2009 10:55:22 AM

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