Death Penalty Study Reveals Random Application


New Jersey’s Star-Ledger editorial board reviews the results of a new death penalty study conducted by Stanford Law Professor John Donohue, which reveals that inmates on death row were indistinguishable from equally violent offenders who evaded the same sentence.


For his research, Donohue focused on the state of Connecticut and analyzed all murder cases over a 34-year period. The study revealed:

The whole sentencing process, which is similar to that of other death penalty states, is utterly arbitrary, he concluded. The nature of the crime bore almost no relationship to how the case turned out.


Among the 29 defendants who had a death penalty hearing in Connecticut, there was no clear difference in the level of depravity or egregiousness for the 17 who got life without parole and the 12 sentenced to death.


The process is also discriminatory. Black defendants are more likely to be sentenced to death if their victim is white. Defendants in certain geographic areas are also more likely to end up on death row.

Seventeen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row. They were convicted in 11 states and served a combined 209 years in prison – including 187 years on death row – for crimes they didn’t commit. New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007, partially because of the risk of executing an innocent person.


Read the

full editorial



Read about

the innocent and the death penalty



Learn about the Innocence Project’s

Position on the Death Penalty


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