Victim Gender and the Death Penalty

By John H. Blume / Theodore Eisenberg / Sheri Lynn Johnson / Cornell Law Review / Martin T. Wells / Valerie P. Hans / Amelia Courtney Hritz / Caisa E. Royer, on 1 January 2014

Do the characteristics of the victim determine a murderer’s punishment?Theory and research both suggest that they do. This Article focuses on thegender of the murder victim, in particular, how victim gender influences deathseeking and death penalty sentencing decisions. First, the Article reviews theexisting evidence supporting a “female victim effect” which theorizes that crimesinvolving female victims are punished more harshly than crimes with malevictims. It also presents and assesses various theoretical explanations for thefemale victim effect. Second, the Article analyzes cases from a comprehensivedataset of Delaware capital trials, exploring how cases with male and femalevictims differ. It then considers which of the theoretical explanations for afemale victim effect best explain death penalty decisions in this sample of cases.

  • Document type Article
  • Themes list Women, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Discrimination, Death Penalty,