NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Death Penalty as a Murder Deterrent

June 21, 2002

According to foes of the death penalty, criminals aren't smart enough to consider consequences -- they act on impulses. But that's not what the statistics show.

Compare the number of executions performed with fluctuations in the murder rate of the past 70 years -- beginning in 1930:

  • From 1930 to 1963, the murder rate and executions track very closely --both falling.
  • Most states had capital punishment and used it prior to 1963, until the Supreme Court began imposing "exclusionary rules" on confessions and searches bringing countless capital convictions under review -- to the point that executions ground to a halt and were abolished altogether in 1972.
  • From the 1970s to the early 1990s, murder skyrocketed; not until executions resumed in earnest after 1991 did murder rates fall rapidly to their 1960s levels.

Had liberals not toyed with the death penalty and murder rates remained constant from 1963 to 1997, an estimated 100,000 Americans would have escaped homicide.

Source: William Tucker (American Spectator), "Yes, the Death Penalty Deters," Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2002.

For WSJ text,,SB1024617817464476960,00.html


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