Posted: 29 Feb 2008
Date Written: 2006
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.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Kuziemko, Ilyana, Does the Threat of the Death Penalty Affect Plea Bargaining in Murder Cases? Evidence from New York's 1995 Reinstatement of Capital Punishment ( 2006). American Law and Economics Review, Vol. 8, Issue 1, pp. 116-142, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1095568 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aler/ahj005