The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence

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Cambridge University Press, Jan 7, 2008 - Political Science - 310 pages
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Since 1996, death sentences in America have declined more than 60 percent, reversing a generation-long trend toward greater acceptance of capital punishment. In theory, most Americans continue to support the death penalty. But it is no longer seen as a theoretical matter. Prosecutors, judges, and juries across the country have moved in large numbers to give much greater credence to the possibility of mistakes -- mistakes that in this arena are potentially fatal. The discovery of innocence, documented here through painstaking analyses of media coverage and with newly developed methods, has led to historic shifts in public opinion and to a sharp decline in use of the death penalty by juries across the country. A social cascade, starting with legal clinics and innocence projects, has snowballed into a national phenomenon that may spell the end of the death penalty in America.

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About the author (2008)

Frank R. Baumgartner is Miller-LaVigne Professor of Political Science at Penn State University. His previous publications include: Comparative Studies of Policy Agendas (2007), The Politics of Attention: How Government Prioritizes Problems (with Bryan D. Jones, 2005), Policy Dynamics (with Bryan D. Jones, 2002), and Agendas and Instability in American Politics (with Bryan D. Jones, 1993), winner of the 2001 Aaron Wildavsky Award, APSA Organized Section on Public Policy. He has been published widely in journals and serves on the editorial boards of American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Journal of European Public Policy, Policy Studies Journal, and Journal of Information Technology and Politics.

Suzanna L. De Boef is Associate Professor of Political Science at Penn State University. Her research examines the dynamics of public opinion, elections, and public policy and the statistical methods used to analyze them. Her work has appeared in journals such as the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Politics, Political Analysis, and Statistics in Medicine.

Amber E. Boydstun is a graduate student in Political Science at Penn State University. Her research explores the influence of issue-definition on media agenda control. She has been published in Mass Communication and Society.

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