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By Stephen P. Klein, Richard A. Berk, Laura J. Hickman.

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Additional info for Race and the decision to seek the death penalty in federal cases

Sample text

Ebener This chapter describes the procedures we used to construct the data files that were given to the three analysis teams. The initial phase of this activity involved identifying the kinds of data that would be desirable and feasible to collect on each case and the best sources for these data. Next, we developed, pilot tested, and revised the forms the coders used to record the information in the hard-copy case files. We then selected and trained the coders. Finally, we coded the information in the case files, entered and merged these data with information from relevant electronic files, and prepared an integrated database for processing by the analysis teams.

One of the major obstacles to conducting research on the death penalty is the need to convert descriptions of the defendants, victims, and case characteristics into quantifiable variables that are unambiguous and amenable to statistical analysis. Coding rules must be developed to abstract data from case files, and there is no standardized set of rules for constructing variables. This can lead to problems for interpretation and comparisons across studies. For example, Morton and Rolph (2000) obtained different results in a study of black and white murder victims depending on whether they defined a “white victim case” as one involving only white victims versus one involving at least one white victim.

The South also led the nation in the percentage of cases in which they recommended a seek decision (31 percent), but this rate was followed closely by the West (27 percent) and Midwest (25 percent) regions. The other regions had much lower rates. The AG seek decisions exhibited the same pattern. S. S. Census Region AG Decision Defendants (N) Seek (N) Seek (%) Defendants (N) Seek (N) Seek (%) South 263 81 31 234 74 32 West 75 20 27 73 20 27 Midwest 85 21 25 79 22 28 Puerto Rico 70 10 14 65 11 17 156 20 13 146 22 15 3 0 0 3 0 0 652 152 23 600 149 25 Northeast Virgin Islands Total NOTE: South consists of Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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