Racialized Victim Gender Differences in Capital Decision Making in Pennsylvania

Jeffery T. Ulmer, Lily S. Hanrath, Gary Zajac

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The death penalty has historically been used to communicate moral outrage and fear about the murders of some kinds of victims more than others. A large body of research has inquired into the effects of defendant race, and to a lesser extent victim race in capital punishment. However, there is much less research on how victim gender influences capital punishment decisions, and even less research on how victim gender and race might intersect to influence such decisions. This study examines the role of victim gender and race in: prosecutors’ decisions to seek the death penalty, prosecutors’ decisions to retract death filings, and jury or judge decisions to sentence defendants to the death penalty. We utilize detailed data on first degree murder convictions in 18 Pennsylvania counties, 2000–2010. The intersecting gender and race of victims conditioned each of the death penalty outcomes. In addition, whether the victim had children conditioned the effects of victim gender/race.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1104-1127
Number of pages24
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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