Contrary to the common belief that capital punishment deters murderers, a study by Tomislav Kovandzic, Lynne Vieraitis, and Denise Paquette Boots of the University of Texas at Dallas concludes that most offenders do not likely weigh the costs and benefits of crime and are not likely to be deterred by the existence of the death penalty. Many homicides are committed when offenders are under extreme emotional duress and are unlikely to be thinking of the legal sanctions.
The study, in the November 2009 issue of the journal Criminology and Public Policy, edited at Florida State University, says that for the death penalty to serve as a deterrent, the probability of getting caught and punished must be greater than any benefit the offender could achieve from committing the crime. Commenting on the study, Paul Rubin of Emory University contends that the mere probability of execution is likely to deter at least some potential murderers. Rubin finds studies of capital punishment problematic because only convicted criminals are examined–not those who have been deterred–and because the death penalty is imposed too infrequently and erratically to measure its deterrent effects well. The journal is sent to members of the American Society of Criminology.