Does the Threat of the Death Penalty Affect Plea Bargaining in Murder Cases?

This article investigates whether the death penalty encourages defendants charged with potentially capital crimes to plead guilty in exchange for lesser sentences. I exploit a natural experiment in New York State: the 1995 reinstatement of capital punishment, coupled with the public refusal of some prosecutors to pursue death sentences (N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25 [McKinney 1975]). Using individual-level data on all felony arrests in the state between 1985 and 1998, I find the death penalty leads defendants to accept plea bargains with harsher terms, but does not increase defendants’ overall propensity to plead guilty. A differences-in-differences analysis of a national cross-section of homicide defendants confirms these results.

Source: “Does the Threat of the Death Penalty Affect Plea Bargaining in Murder Cases? Evidence from New York’s 1995 Reinstatement of Capital Punishment” from Am Law Econ Rev (Spring 2006) 8 (1): 116-142.

Great nonfiction crime books are “Low Life”, “Homicide”, “The Big Con”, Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate, The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison, Donnie Brasco and Wiseguy, which inspired GoodFellas.

Related posts:

Do prison conditions have more of a deterrent effect on crime than the death penalty?

Are attractive people less likely to be convicted of a crime and more likely to get a shorter sentence?

Does the male/female wage gap extend to crime?

When does the sex of a judge affect their rulings?

Are lawyers any good at predicting the outcomes of their cases?

Can watching TV crime dramas distort perception of the criminal justice system?

Why you should only reference low numbers when you’re on trial for murder:

Does it work when a defendant tries to excuse away crimes by saying he was abused as a child?

How would the law punish Siamese twins if one committed murder without the other being involved?

Do women receive lighter prison sentences than men? If so, why?

You just committed murder. What should you do now?

You should follow me on Twitter here. You can also subscribe to the blog’s feed or follow on Facebook. If you want to help support the blog, please do your Amazon shopping via this link. Here are the site’s most popular posts of all time.


Tags:
Posted In:
Post Details