Murder Case Processing and the Death Penalty in PA: 2000-2010

The death penalty and murder sentencing are the most consequential punishment decisions in U.S. society. There has been long-standing concern about disparity in these decisions, most prominently, disparity based on the race/ethnicity and gender of defendants and victims, as well as concern about differences in case outcomes related to legal representation, and differences between court jurisdictions.
When Oct 23, 2018
from 04:00 PM to 05:00 PM
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We examine murder case processing with a focus on decisions surrounding the death penalty in first
degree murders. We collected basic statistical data on 4,274 cases charged with homicide in Pennsylvania
from 2000 to 2010, and then collected highly detailed data from courts and prosecutors’ offices on a
subset of 880 first degree murder convictions in 18 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Utilizing propensity
score weighting methods, we examined: 1) prosecutors’ decisions to seek the death penalty, 2)
prosecutors’ decisions to retract a motion to seek the death penalty once it is filed, and 3) court decisions
to sentence defendants to death or life without parole. We conclude by describing our extension of this
research to include non-capital murders and earlier case processing decisions by prosecutors