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http://ssrn.com/abstract=922533
 
 

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The Effect of Race, Gender, and Location on Prosecutorial Decision to Seek the Death Penalty in South Carolina


Michael J. Songer


Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Isaac Unah


University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Department of Political Science

July 15, 2011

South Carolina Law Review, Vol. 58, p. 16, November 2006

Abstract:     
This article contributes to the death penalty debate by analyzing the decision of state prosecutors to seek the death penalty in South Carolina from 1993 to 1997. Our central focus is on the potential impact of non-legal cues such as race, gender, and location of the crime in shaping prosecutorial choices. Because prosecutors are elected in South Carolina, we control for the political context of prosecutorial decisions. The empirical analysis indicates that contrary to normative expectations and numerous legal guidelines that have been established to channel the decisions of state officials, the administration of capital punishment remains an imperfect embodiment of the promise of governmental power. Beyond legally mandated statutory aggravating factors, prosecutorial decisions to seek the death penalty in South Carolina are strongly conditioned by the race of the victim, gender, and the rural versus urban location of the crime. In addition, we find that political context matters in the decisions of state prosecutors to go for death. The findings challenge the legitimacy of the process of determining which accused offender should face the death penalty and which should not.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 51

Keywords: Death Penalty, Capital Punishment, Prosecutor, District attorney; Prosecutorial Decision Making, Empirical Analysis; South Carolina

JEL Classification: J7, K4, K14

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Date posted: August 7, 2006 ; Last revised: July 16, 2011

Suggested Citation

Songer, Michael J. and Unah, Isaac, The Effect of Race, Gender, and Location on Prosecutorial Decision to Seek the Death Penalty in South Carolina (July 15, 2011). South Carolina Law Review, Vol. 58, p. 16, November 2006. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=922533

Contact Information

Michael J. Songer
Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ( email )
231 West Lafayette Blvd
Detriot, MI 48226
Isaac Unah (Contact Author)
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Department of Political Science ( email )
Department of Political Science
361 Hamilton Hall, CB#3265
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States
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