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Death Penalty in Decline: Brakes and Accelerators in U.S. State Legislatures
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6563-9129
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Sustainable development
Not refering to any SDG
Abstract [en]

After reaching a peak during the 1990s, death sentences and executions havedeclined throughout the states. During this time, a steady stream of states havetaken the step to join a growing group of abolitionist states, or alternatively, have a moratorium on executions in place. In a parallel development, supportfor the death penalty among the U.S. population has equally waned. However,the trend towards a shrinking death penalty is not without its challenges. The ultimate punishment is still administered in some states, and legislation aiming to maintain the use of the death penalty continue to be proposed and enacted in state legislatures. Previous research provides a wide range of reasons explaining the current situation at state level. This compilation thesis argues that state legislatures, a hitherto less researched area in this context, play a central role in recent developments. With a lack of research on determinants for death penalty legislation, meaning both legislation that aims to limit the use ofthe death penalty and that which aims to maintain or expand it, a significant gap exists in the literature and subsequently our understanding of a declining death penalty. This thesis attempts to address this gap by contributing with fourstudies of a unique set of death penalty legislation in 38 states covering the years 1999-2018. The papers examine legislative activity in terms of both billproposals and enacted legislation, as well as the role of women legislators andthat of governors and their use of vetoes targeting death penalty legislation. Party and institutional aspects are shown to matter to the current development, but with a number of caveats depending on the type of bill and with greatdiversity between different state legislatures and their shaping of death penalty policy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Växjö: Linnaeus University Press, 2021. , p. 60
Series
Linnaeus University Dissertations ; 429
Keywords [en]
abolition, bill proposals, death penalty, Democrats, gubernatorial veto, legislative entrepreneurs, legislative professionalism, morality policy, public opinion, Republicans, state legislatures, women legislators
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Social Sciences, Political Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-108183ISBN: 9789189460331 (print)ISBN: 9789189460348 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-108183DiVA, id: diva2:1613671
Public defence
2021-12-10, Weber, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2021-11-24 Created: 2021-11-23 Last updated: 2024-03-06Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Dynamic rare decisions: gubernatorial vetoes and the death penalty, 1999–2018
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Dynamic rare decisions: gubernatorial vetoes and the death penalty, 1999–2018
2023 (English)In: Journal of Legislative Studies, ISSN 1357-2334, E-ISSN 1743-9337, Vol. 29, no 1, p. 189-211Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

For the last two decades, the death penalty in the US has steadily declined. During this time, governors have at rare but crucial moments participated in shaping the death penalty in their respective states by issuing vetoes. Gubernatorial vetoes have in some cases been used not only to prevent abolition from occurring, but also to bar the state from enacting legislation to expand it. However, little is known about what factors influence the decision to veto these often very controversial bills. Analysis of a unique dataset of death penalty bills covering years 1999–2018 suggests that a governor’s individual attributes, as well as institutional factors, have an effect on the likelihood of a veto in the legislative context of the death penalty, with different aspects of time in office, experience and partisanship being of particular relevance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2023
Keywords
state legislatures, death penalty, gubernatorial veto
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Social Sciences, Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-106984 (URN)10.1080/13572334.2021.1975422 (DOI)000695969900001 ()2-s2.0-85114863509 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2021-09-14 Created: 2021-09-14 Last updated: 2023-05-10Bibliographically approved
2. Same Procedure as Last Year? Patterns of Death Penalty Bill Introductions in the Era of Abolition 1999–2018
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Same Procedure as Last Year? Patterns of Death Penalty Bill Introductions in the Era of Abolition 1999–2018
2021 (English)In: Studies in Law, Politics, and Society / [ed] Austin Sarat, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2021, Vol. 85, p. 1-26Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The death penalty has existed in a state of steady decline for the last two decades, during which state legislatures have been at the center of abolition efforts. Successful abolition is, however, very rare in contrast to how often death penalty repeal bills are introduced across state legislatures, year after year. Indeed, abolition is not a sudden event, but may be many years in the making. Research on the early phases of this process, where the groundwork for enacted legislation is laid, is nevertheless limited. This chapter explores patterns of death penalty bill introductions across all active death penalty states from 1999 to 2018, providing not only an overview of legislative activity at state level but also an analysis of potential factors fueling the activity. It argues that individual legislators play a significant role in the current trend of increased legislative support for a restricted, if not entirely abolished, death penalty, evident both in terms of persistency over time and cooperation across party lines. It also problematizes partisan aspects of legislative activity in the context of legislation on capital punishment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2021
Series
Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, ISSN 1059-4337 ; 85
Keywords
Death penalty, bill introductions, state legislatures, legislative entrepreneurs, abolition, partisanship
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Social Sciences, Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-100158 (URN)10.1108/S1059-433720210000085001 (DOI)2-s2.0-85108109056 (Scopus ID)978-1-80071-221-8 (ISBN)978-1-80071-220-1 (ISBN)
Available from: 2021-01-18 Created: 2021-01-18 Last updated: 2022-08-10Bibliographically approved

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