Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die? An Analysis of Prisoners on Death Row in the United States
Laura M. Argys
H. Naci Mocan
Using data on the entire population of prisoners under a sentence of death in the United States between 1977 and 1997, this paper investigates the probability of transition from death row to various possible outcomes (execution, death by other causes, commutation, and overturned sentence or conviction) in any given year, as well as the probability of commutation when reaching the end of death row. The analyses control for personal characteristics and previous criminal record of death row inmates and a number of characteristics of the state where the inmate is in custody, inculding variables that measure the degree to which the political process enters into the final outcome in a death penalty case. The results show that who lives and who dies on death row depends on the race and gender of the inmate, the race and political affiliation of the governor, and whether the governor is a lame duck.
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