Empirical Analysis of Race and the Process of Capital Punishment in North Carolina
51 Pages Posted: 2 May 2012 Last revised: 17 Oct 2012
Date Written: December 15, 2011
The process of determining recipients of capital punishment in the United States involves sequential stages of decision making by the prosecutor and jury. In this Article, I argue in favor of modeling capital punishment as a process rather than simply as an outcome by decomposing the various stages of decision making. Using a Heckman procedure along with a rich criminal prosecution and sentencing dataset from North Carolina, I analyze the potential influence of race in the application of the death penalty. The results indicate that despite structural reforms designed to minimize its policy effects, race still plays a crucial role in determining capital punishment. This key result was obtained even after controlling for numerous legal factors sanctioned by the North Carolina General Assembly, institutional factors connected to the political process, and structural factors involving victims, defendants, and their backgrounds. More importantly, the analysis points to the jury stage as the place where racial discrimination in capital punishment is most acute.
Keywords: Death penalty, capital punishment, Process theory, North Carolina, Racial Justice Act, prosecutorial decision making, punishment politics
JEL Classification: LSB, PSN, LSN
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation