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The Delaware Death Penalty: An Empirical Study

49 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2012 Last revised: 15 May 2012

Sheri Lynn Johnson

Cornell Law School

John H. Blume III

Cornell Law School

Theodore Eisenberg

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased)

Valerie P. Hans

Cornell University - School of Law

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School

Date Written: March 11, 2012

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Sheri Lynn and Blume, John H. and Eisenberg, Theodore and Hans, Valerie P. and Wells, Martin T., The Delaware Death Penalty: An Empirical Study (March 11, 2012). Iowa Law Review, Forthcoming; Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-24. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2019913 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2019913

Sheri Lynn Johnson

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-6478 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

John H. Blume III

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Theodore Eisenberg (Contact Author)

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased) ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Valerie P. Hans

Cornell University - School of Law ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-0095 (Phone)

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Comstock Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-8801 (Phone)

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