Race, Region, and Death Sentencing in Illinois, 1988-1997

Glenn L. Pierce, Northeastern University
Michael L. Radelet, University of Colorado

This paper summarizes a research project (completed March 2002) conducted for the Office of Governor George Ryan in Illinois and the Commission on Capital Punishment he appointed to study the state's death penalty. Confidential data on Illinois homicides were obtained for this analysis. Included are data from Illinois Department of Corrections on all inmates convicted of first-degree murder, 1/1/88 through 12/31/97 (N=5,310). Victim data were obtained from various state sources, the Chicago Homicide Data File, and the Supplemental Homicide Reports. Some two dozen measures of death penalty eligibility and aggravating factors were used, as well as measures of victim's and defendant's race and the county of conviction. The role of political and psychological factors in death penalty decisions will be discussed. The Office of the Governor and the Governor's Commission on Capital Punishment will release our report within the next few weeks; meanwhile, the results are embargoed.

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Updated 05/20/2006