Thursday, September 8, 2011

On statistics and the death penalty

Doug Berman over at Sentencing Law and Policy presents us a new statistic to measure the efficiency of state death machines - "Executions per Death Sentence" or EPDS as the sabermetricians would say.

The Death Penalty Information Center calculated the number of death sentences handed down by state and the number of inmates each state murdered since the death penalty was reinstituted in 1976. Contrary to what you might think, Texas and Ohio do not head the list.

The old commonwealth, Virginia, heads up the list with an EPDS of .725, meaning that for every 100 death sentences handed down, 72.5 executions are carried out. Texas does pop up at number two on the list with an EPDS of .498, however. The national rate, by the way, is .150.

At the bottom of the list of states that have murdered at least one inmate since 1976 are Pennsylvania (.008), California (.015) and Idaho (.025).

If we look at the murder rates by state in 2009 we find that Virginia had a murder rate of 4.4 homicides per 100,000 people while Texas had a murder rate of 5.4 homicides per 100,000 people. Pennsylvania's murder rate was 5.2 homicides per 100,000, California's was 5.3 and Idaho had a rate of 1.4.

Since 1976, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Kansas are alone in not murdering inmates. New York's murder rate was 4.0. New Jersey's was 3.7. Kansas rate was 4.2 and New Hampshire brought up the rear with a murder rate of .08.

So, based on the data at hand, there would appear to be little or no correlation between the number of executions carried out and the homicide rate in any given state. But, of course, having a reputation as a killer works wonders for the candidates on the right running for the White House.

Just ask George W. Bush or Governor Goodhair.

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