Experts Can't Figure Out If Death Penalty Deters Murder

Existing studies are flawed, and shouldn't be considered: committee
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2012 7:17 AM CDT
Experts Can't Figure Out If Death Penalty Deters Murder
This undated photo provided by the Virginia Department of Corrections shows an electric chair.   (AP Photo/Virginia Department of Corrections)

(Newser) – Ohio executed one death-row inmate yesterday and has 11 executions on the books over the next 20 months. The AP notes that could once again make the state one of the country's busiest executioners. So is all that capital punishment deterring murders there? Who knows? That's basically the finding of experts brought together to research the question on behalf of the National Research Council. NPR reports that they considered only the science, not the morality, of the death penalty, by reviewing dozens of studies on the topic.

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The committee uncovered flaw after flaw in the studies, leading it to determine that those studies should not be used to guide lawmakers. Among the issues it uncovered: The studies didn't consider how punishments like life in prison may alter the homicide rate. They also assumed that murderers are able to determine their risk of execution; "in reality, this is very difficult to do," said the committee's chair. The report, released yesterday, does say better studies can be designed—with difficulty. (Read more death penalty stories.)

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