Once an office assembles a staff that has handled a capital trial, it draws upon this capacity to pursue the death penalty in subsequent cases, which further augments the office’s institutional capacity to pursue the death penalty. This self-reinforcing dynamic between capacity and caseload makes it more likely for offices that obtain death sentences to seek the death penalty going forward. Conversely, offices that cease to obtain death penalties (or never obtained death penalties in the first place) may be less likely to reverse course as institutional capacity for death penalty sentencing erodes (or is never developed). … This path dependency may reflect practices of prosecutors who make the charging decisions whether to seek the death penalty, but it may also capture defense lawyering, judges, jurors, and other features of a county that make it more likely to continue to death sentence over time
Wow, Kafka couldn't have said it better himself. Morbid bureaucratic mechanism of horror
There are people that deserve it but it's very hard to figure out who.
The death penalty is completely unnecessary. Hell some of those in prison after 30 seasons with no future probably wish they were dead.
(I don't know how good this source is.)
Ideally this dynamic would also mean that defense lawyers and norms would get better over time instead of atrophying.
Over time, the machine has broken down, and all concerned have forgotten what the point of the machine exactly is, but the practice continues, the creaking machine grinding on.
The only difference is who you believe morally right.
Most defendants would probably expediency more alienation if the likelihood of a death penalty depended on which county tried them. Actually, The Trial itself references circumstances very similar to this.
On the other hand, if there was some super depraved criminal that had a chance of walking free due to bureaucracy, then a individual on the prosecution side could be subject to disillusionment and alienation.
So sure either side can be Kafkaesque but since it's more a one vs many i.e the individual facing society, the defendant's situation is more likely to be the loosing end.
2) If you commit a crime in country A, you will be subject to different punishments than if you commit a crime in country B. This isn't really surprising. If you commit a crime in San Francisco, you probably won't be charged even if caught. If you commit a crime in a conservative city, you probably will. Again, not surprising and not absurd. These are different polities and they have different policies.
3) This has almost nothing to do with a self-propelling absurd bureaucracy and almost everything to do with people in some places voting for district attorneys/state officials who want to pursue the death penalty, as well as some DAs offices not wanting to spend the money and suffer the grief of prosecuting a death penalty case, which can require expensive lawyering for multiple decades in many cases.
This thread is so tiresome. People are salivating over this uninsightful study and making sophomoric faux-insightful comments like it's a college literary criticism class.
You are doing the opposite of anthropomorphizing. You are attributing to the faceless bureaucracy what is really just the result of different political preferences.
This is also a theme frequently explored by Kafka. Especially in the machine short story I mentioned. People who believe they’re “right” in sentencing a person to death will come up with all sorts of ways to justify their amoral actions and Kafka created several characters who do.
Sorry to be dismissive, but this is obvious. People who ate a lot of steak last year are likely to eat a lot of steak this year. People who did X a lot last year are more likely to do X a lot this year than people who did X less last year.
Some district attorneys' offices are more interested in pursuing the death penalty than others. How often to pursue the death penalty is a political question. Liberal district attorneys are much less interested in it than conservative district attorneys. And because the last 40 years of case law have made it very difficult to correctly prosecute a death penalty case without getting overturned for some reason on appeal, it is a significant financial investment for a prosecutor's office to pursue the death penalty. And the expense is not just the prosecution but the decades of appeals and other legal actions that will follow. So it makes sense that death penalty prosecutions are centered in places committed to pursuing the death penalty.
Myself, if I'd been asked to guess the distribution of death penalties an hour ago before I'd read this article, would have cited all kinds of things as plausible factors and gone in completely the wrong direction.
We're a bunch of programmers, we like to talk here about our biased mental models of things. Give us data, let us fine tune our models and make them more realistic for those future discussions.
Real data, even when it confirms something 'obvious', is still good, right?
I know that something being dressed up as SCIENCE makes us want to think it's profound. But most of the time, research findings are steaming piles of worthless crap that people pretend are insightful because their careers depend on it.
The non-obvious part is that the death penalty follows the first model and not the second. You could reason from first principles that the death penalty's intended effect is to prevent crime by executing a criminal, which is a long-term action like buying a house and not a short-term one like buying a steak. Or you could reason that its intended effect is to deter crime by presenting a deeply undesirable outcome for criminals. The surprise is that it's neither, and the counties so often have more people to execute.
Is this even true? This is a non-obvious claim where the exact opposite phenomenon is allegedly true of other seemingly one-time purchases (e.g. cars, household appliances).
It also preys on FOMO (show a better deal, they might cancel and re-order from you), brings you top of mind if they need a refund/replacement in short order, and does work for general brand awareness for next time, or conversations with a friend (since the ad knows you are now a GPU buying type of person). "Yeah I got XYZ GPU but I saw ABC GPU is cheaper and probably what you need." I probably missed a few things, but briefly it wouldn't be done if there wasn't a reason with the number of metrics they have these days.
This doesn’t say anything about the intended effect.
It says a lot about the actual dynamics, but there is no necessary relationship between those two things.
(I have not rigorously verified my objection, but I’m moderately confident I’m right.)
However, to verify your objection you need to first give the parameter that they have not used, and second come up with a good causality why your parameter explains the variation better (hint second letter of the county name is not it).
A demonstration of unsoundness does not require a proof that the conclusion is wrong; unsoundness means that the argument is wrong. The onus is in the authors to present a sound argument, not on the reader of the paper to demonstrate that the conclusion is incorrect.
(As a different example, Andrew Wiles’ first proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem was unsound. This didn’t mean that the theorem wasn’t true; it meant that Wiles failed to prove it. Similarly, in my opinion, the authors of this paper have not provided sound evidence in favor of their claim. This doesn’t mean I disbelieve their conclusion.)
This reads strangely to me. It's like saying:
"Our research found that 2+2=4. In combination with racial dynamics, this is inconsistent with equal protection of the law."
I get that they are saying it amplifies, but they injected it in a weird way that makes their research sound more important to a broader conclusion than it is.
(1) Crime scales with population.
(2) Death sentences scale with crime.
(3) Therefore, death sentences should scale with population.
(4) The U.S.'s geographic distribution results in very dense clustering such that only a handful of counties have a lot of population.
(5) Therefore, we would expect to see only a handful of counties account for the majority of death sentences.
However, this line from the abstract seems to make (2) unlikely:
> The number of death sentences in a given county in a given year is better predicted by that county’s previous experience in imposing death than by the number of homicides.
Thus, their argument is that something much deeper is going on than just population-level trends.
The best predictor of death sentences is going to be whether or not you are in Texas.
> In the analyses below, we include only states allowing the death penalty in the year of analysis. Because we focus on the geographical variability in the use of the death penalty, we exclude the US military (which has sentenced 15 individuals to death since reestablishment in 1984, but carried out no executions) and the federal government (which has issued 79 death sentences since reinstatement in 1988, and carried out three executions).
And with this in mind, they still found that death sentences didn't correlate well with the homicide rate:
> The table also lists the rate of death sentences per 100 homicides and the rate of homicides per 100,000 population. If there was a direct link among these variables, we would expect some consistency here. But we see very little. In fact, the correlations are surprisingly low; in fact, the rate of death sentences per 100 homicides and the rate of homicides per 100,000 population correlate at -0.12. The counties with the highest raw numbers of death sentences listed in the table include not a single county that ranks in the top 100 with regards to death sentences per 100 homicides.
First, even the death penalty rate isn't approximately equal across the sample, so it's not just population. And second, they are saying that the death penalty rate doesn't even correlate well with the crime rate. And yet there are still a few outlier counties that have an abnormally high death penalty rate! That is what is unintuitive. I mean, sure, it makes some sense that some counties are more likely to issue the death penalty than others, even where it's legal, but it's a huge skew, and it's very different from saying "Texas has a lot of people."
I wouldn't think most counties decide to implement the death penalty based on number or types of crime (aside from 100 year outliers) as 'life in prison without possibility of parole' is also satisfactory in most cases. I would wager that the first execution in most counties occur after a specific election rather than a specific crime.
Normalizing by population density might help, but only in a limited way, because huge concentrations of people create different effects than pretty sparsely populated areas.
Now you're making me wonder if they controlled for elected judges.
That's not exactly a surprising result. A lot of people (probably including me) just won't use the death penalty unless there's a serial killer who videotaped his crimes and swore to break out of jail. The ones who will use the death penalty in more cases are not uniformly distributed.
The paper’s conclusions follow from this.
How many people murdered due to the Reign of Terror 2020?
Wow, your trendy pet activism of the bailed out rich killed more people than bin Laden. How about a study on that?
You also mention Jim Crow. May we look at the slavery you commit today, far worse than any other time in human history. Where do you think all your drugs, and sex workers, and cheap clothes and cheap electronics and child soldiers come from?
There are a lot of things that are self-reinforcing. Take for examples, unions. Whether or not you think unions are a good thing or bad thing, likely you will be more successful unionizing a company that is located where there already are a lot of unions. For example, one of the big disadvantages of the Alabama Amazon union organizers was that they were in a part of the country where there was a strong anti-union sentiment in general.
To get to something more related to law enforcement, likely certain areas of the country will have more success in convicting police officers of murders.
For example, the Chauvin trial, instead of being held in Hennepin County, was held in a small rural county in norther Minnesota would most probably been harder to convince the jury to convict on all three counts and probably would have had a higher chance of a hung jury(which is why the defense asked to moved the venue).
Yes different parts of the country, and even the state will have likely different outcomes. This will be true for a lot of things. This observation is orthogonal to whether what you want is right or wrong.
After all, no one would argue that Chauvin’s conviction should be thrown out since a different jury in a different part of the country might have reached a different conclusion?