Current Issues and Controversies in Capital Punishment

Author/Creator ORCID





Citation of Original Publication

Richards, T. N., Smith, M. D., (June 6 2014). Current Issues and Controversies in Capital Punishment. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 1-5.



It is our pleasure to introduce you to our special issue on “Current Issues and Controversies in Capital Punishment”. Capital punishment continues to be one of the most highly debated and polarizing public policies issues in the United States. But, the number of individuals on death row has reached an almost twenty year low, many states have moratoriums on capital punishment, while others have repealed the use of the death penalty altogether (Death Penalty Information Center, 2014, 2013a). At the same time, thirty-two states continue to use capital punishment and as of this writing, twenty individuals have been executed in 2014 (Death Penalty Information Center, 2013b). Social science research often enters the capital punishment debate through studies examining the influence of legal and extralegal characteristics on prosecutorial decisions to seek the death penalty (e.g., Paternoster, 1984; Paternoster & Brame, 2003), jury death sentence decision-making (e.g., Jennings, Richards, Bjerregaard, Smith, Bjerregaard, & Fogel, 2014; Paternoster & Brame, 2008; Richards, Jennings, Smith, Sellers, Fogel, & Bjerregaard, 2014; Williams, Demuth, & Holcomb, 2007), and societal attitudes regarding the use of the death penalty (e.g., Cochran & Chamlin, 2005; Michel & Cochran, 2011) as well as other related topics. In this vein, the purpose of this special issue is to address contemporary topics related to the death penalty that have not been addressed or have received limited attention in the extant criminological literature. The set of articles included in this special issue stem from different disciplinary perspectives including philosophy, law, public policy, and criminology, and utilize diverse method- ological approaches ranging from case studies to propensity score analysis.