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Analysis Finds Death Penalty States Had Most Murders During Pandemic

A Death Penalty Information Center analysis of 2020 U.S. homicide data has found that murder rates during the pandemic were highest in states with the death penalty and lowest in long-time abolitionist states. DPIC reviewed murder data compiled by the think tank The Third Way for its March 2022 report, The Red State Murder Problem. The center compared the data to states’ death-penalty status and historic usage of the death penalty, DPIC reports. That analysis found that pandemic murder rates generally correlated not just with the presence or absence of the death penalty in a state but with the states’ general level of death-penalty usage. The data show that nine of the ten states with the highest pandemic murder rates— ranging from 9.9 to 20.5 murders per 10,000 residents — are death penalty states. On the other hand, eight of the eleven states with the lowest pandemic murder rates — ranging from 0.88 to 3.49 murders per 10,000 residents — had abolished the death penalty.


DPIC found that the three death penalty states with the lowest pandemic murder rates — all 2.89 murders per 10,000 residents — have not carried out an execution in more than a decade, and one had a gubernatorial moratorium on executions. Murder rates in the mostly high death-penalty usage, high pandemic-murder-rate states ranged from roughly triple to 23 times higher than in the mostly no death penalty, low pandemic-murder-rate states. More than half of all death penalty states (14 of 27) had murder pandemic murder rates of at least 7.00 per 100,000 residents, and 30 percent (eight states) had pandemic murder rates of 10.29 per 100,000 residents or higher. By contrast, nearly two-thirds of the states that had abolished the death penalty (15 of 23) had pandemic murder rates of 5.14 or less per 100,000 residents, more than a third (eight states) had pandemic murder rates below 3.5 murders per 100,000 residents.

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