The Delaware Death Penalty: An Empirical Study
49 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2012 Last revised: 5 Dec 2022
Date Written: March 11, 2012
This article is part of a symposium that honors David Baldus, a great scholar and great man, a quiet man with a strong passion for justice. We study the operation of Delaware’s death penalty in the modern era of capital punishment. Our conclusions consist of three main observations. First, Delaware’s reversal rate in capital cases, 44%, while substantial, is also substantially less than that of other jurisdictions. This may not be surprising, given Delaware’s emphasis for much of the time period on judge sentencing and that jury verdicts offer more opportunities for reversal. Indeed, reversal rates during the jury sentencing period approximate the national average. Second, judge sentencing in Delaware results in more death sentences, a result consistent with greater harshness being the motivation behind the statutory change to judge sentencing. This effect, is more pronounced in Delaware than in other states. Third, we find a dramatic disparity of death sentencing rates by race, one substantially more pronounced than in other jurisdictions. Race matters in capital sentencing, as David Baldus told us more than a quarter of century ago, and we need to continue to pursue knowledge about where, when, and how it matters.
Keywords: death penalty, capital punishment, race, juries, judges
JEL Classification: J7, J71, K00, K14, K41
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