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Effect of Publicized Executions on Homicide in California

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime and Justice Volume: 21 Issue: 2 Dated: 1998 Pages: 1-16
S Stack
Date Published
16 pages
Data on publicized executions in California were used to test how homicide rates in that State were affected by citizen awareness, given that a requisite of the theories of capital punishment is citizen awareness of executions.
The study used data from homicides in Los Angeles County, Alameda County, and San Francisco County from 1946-55, when an average of 20.2 homicides occurred each month. Issues of the newspaper The Los Angeles Times were analyzed for the day before the execution, the day of the execution, and the day after the execution; 39 of the 83 executions met the criterion for being publicized. The research tested the death-dip hypothesis, which asserts that months with publicized executions will have lower homicide rates than months without executions. Stories that occurred on the 23rd of the month were coded as affecting the homicide rate in the following month. A multivariate regression analysis revealed that a publicized execution is associated with a decrease of 2.6 homicides, or a 12.7 percent decrease in the month of the publicized execution. Publicized executions were associated with a total decrease of 99 homicides during the time period analyzed. The model explained 41 percent of the variance in homicide. Findings could be interpreted from any of three theoretical perspectives: deterrence, normative validation, or victim mobilization. Findings were consistent with some previous research and inconsistent with other research. Further research is recommended to determine the reasons why some publicized executions are not associated with a decline in homicide. Tables, footnotes, appended list of publicized execution stories, and 40 references (Author abstract modified)