MYTH: The threat of the death penalty will deter criminals from committing more serious crimes.
FACT: No evidence exists to support this claim, and the data suggests the opposite.
In 2017, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) reported that an “analysis of U.S. murder data from 1987 through 2015 . . . found no evidence that the death penalty deters murder or protects police.” Rather, “the evidence show[ed] that murder rates . . . are consistently higher in death-penalty states than in states that have abolished the death penalty.” The study showed that the murder rate in death penalty states (6.646) was higher than the national average (6.424) and significantly higher than in non-death penalty states (4.788).
A 2021 article by the Sun Sentinel reported similar data and found that “[a]nnual murder rates are consistently higher overall in the death penalty states than in the 22 without capital punishment.”
As of March 11, 2023, the Gun Violence Archive reported 106 mass shootings in 2023. Only 23 (21.7%) of those mass shootings were in non-death penalty states. All together, these 106 mass shootings have killed 157 people and injured an additional 415. Eighty-two percent of the fatalities were in death penalty states. Eighty-one percent of the injuries were in death penalty states.
NEW PODCAST: DPIC Study Finds No Evidence that Death Penalty Deters Murder or Protects Police, Death Penalty Info. Ctr. (Sept. 12, 2017), https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/news/new-podcast-dpic-study-finds-no-evidence-that-death-penalty-deters-murder-or-protects-police.
Supporting Data for 2017 DPIC Study of Murder Rates and Killings of Police, Death Penalty Info. Ctr., https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/stories/supporting-data-for-2017-dpic-study-of-murder-rates-and-killings-of-police (last visited Mar. 11, 2023).
Data from Mass Shootings in 2023, Gun Violence Archive, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting (last visited Mar. 11, 2023).