Friday, April 28, 2006

Life-Without-Parole Statutes' Effect on Death Penalty

Note, A Matter of Life and Death: The Effect of Life-Without-Parole Statutes on Capital Punishment, 119 Harv. L. Rev. 1838 (2006), looks at the history, policies, and impact of statutes creating a sentence of life without parole.

Some opponents of the death penalty have argued for these statutes, suggesting that juries will avoid imposing the death sentence if they know that the defendant will never be on the streets again. When death penalty statutes were invalidated, some prosecutors argued for the statutes as a second best.

Empirical studies indicate that the possibility of life without parole does affect jurors' decisionmaking. But author's analysis indicates that the presence of the statutes has affected the number of death sentences imposed but had very little effect on the number of executions. The author suggests that the people who get life without parole might have escaped the death penalty anyway -- either because of the jury or because of subsequent appeals, pardons, or other proceedings.

The author also reports that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people being sentence to life without parole -- so that many defendants who would have been eligible for parole after, say, 40 years (when they are senior citizens) now will never be released.

For links to some other interesting death penalty information, see this post on the Sententcing Law and Policy blog.

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1 comment:

Lawrence Flusche said...

This is quite an interesting study that I plan to read in depth (when finals are over). From your summary here, it poses some very interesting questions. I have long thought that the solution for the death penalty was to put people in prison truly for the rest of their life. However, this study seems to rebunk that idea. I am left wondering what we are to do with serious offenders.

Thanks for posting this great article,