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Guide to the Report

This Report provides detailed descriptions of: the current death penalty debate (Part IA); the amount and seriousness of the capital error found by courts during the 1973-1995 study period (Parts IB-II); our research methods (Part III); the results of 19 statistical analyses of our data on capital reversal rates (Parts IV-VI); our interpretation of those results (Part VII); and available policy options (Part VIII).

Readers interested in a comprehensive summary of our main findings and conclusions may wish to read the following portions of the Report:

  • Executive Summary (pp. i-vi).

  • Table of Contents, which states the conclusion of each section of the Report (pp. ix-xxvii).

  • Summary and Interpretation of Regression Results (pp. 337-90).

  • Conclusion (pp. 422-28)

Readers interested in descriptions of particular cases in which serious capital error was found may wish to read:

  • Our study of four illustrative cases in which courts approved the convictions and death sentences of innocent men despite a full set of appeals (pp. 25-35).

  • A description of the errors found in each of 352 state post-conviction decisions reversing a capital verdict between 1973 and April 2000 (Appendix C).

  • A description of 46 illustrative federal habeas corpus reversals during the 1973-1995 study period (Appendix D).

Readers interested in comparisons of the 34 capital-sentencing states studied here may wish to examine:

  • Figure 1B, p. 51, which shows the states' overall reversal rates during the 1973-1995 study period.

  • Figure 11, p. 121, which shows the states' death-sentencing rates during that period.

  • Table 18, pp. 344-45, which ranks states based on how much risk of serious capital error they faced based on our best analyses of each of eight conditions found to be related to error, holding other conditions constant at their averages.

  • State Report Cards (Appendix A) documenting each state's use of the death penalty and capital-error rates during the study period.

Readers interested in comparisons of the error and death-sentencing rates of relatively populous counties and cities in the U.S. that imposed 5 or more death sentences during the study period may wish to examine:

  • Tables 13 and 14, pp. 294-95, 297-99, comparing high death-sentencing and low-death sentencing counties and cities based on their capital-error rates and how frequently they sentenced persons to die who later were shown to be not guilty.

  • Table 16, pp. 304-05, comparing the 73 largest capital counties and cities based on their death-sentencing and capital-error rates.

  • Table 19, p. 346, comparing the 6 counties in the nation with over 100 death sentences and the 9 counties with between 50 and 100 death sentences based on their death-sentencing rates.

  • Table 20, p. 348, giving examples of high and low death-sentencing counties in the same state.
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