American Journal of Criminal Justice

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 15–29 | Cite as

Mercy, death, and politics: An analysis of executions and commutations in New York State, 1935–1963



This study focuses on the 249 executions and the 49 commutations not based upon any policy per se of the New York State governors between the years 1935 and 1963. Clemency is an inherently political decision. Therefore, it is expected that groups which are disfavored or viewed as dangerous (blacks, males, felony murderers, and non-youthful offenders) will register higher execution rates than favored groups. Contingency tables and logistic regression analyses offer partial support in that offender race and age are significantly related to final disposition.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Acker, J. R. (1990). New York’s proposed death penalty legislation: Constitutional and policy perspectives.Albany Law Review, 54, 515–616.Google Scholar
  2. Abromowitz, E. & Paget, D. (1964). Executive clemency in capital cases.New York University Law Review, 39, 136–192.Google Scholar
  3. Bedau, H. A. (1964). Death sentences in New Jersey, 1907–1960.Rutgers Law Review, 19, 1–64.Google Scholar
  4. Bedau, H. A. (1965). Capital punishment in Oregon, 1903–1964.Oregon Law Review, 45, 1–39.Google Scholar
  5. Bedau, H. A. (1990–1991). The decline of executive clemency in capital cases.N.Y.U. Review of Law & Social Change, 38, 255–272.Google Scholar
  6. Black, C. (1974).Capital punishment: The inevitability of caprice and mistake. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.Google Scholar
  7. Bohm, R. M. (1991). American death penalty opinion 1936–1986: A critical examination of the Gallup polls. In R. M. Bohm (Ed.),The death penalty in America: Current research (pp. 113–142). Highland Heights, KY: Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.Google Scholar
  8. Bowers, W. J. (1984).Legal homicide: Death as punishment in America. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bowers, W. J. & Pierce, G. L. (1980). Arbitration and discrimination under post-Furman capital statutes.Crime & Delinquency, 26, 563–634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Espy, W. & Smykla, J. O. (1994).Executions in the United States, 1608–1991: The Espy file. Ann Arbor, MI: Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research.Google Scholar
  11. Herrera v. Collins, 113 U.S. 853 (1993).Google Scholar
  12. Johnson, E. H. (1957). Selective factors in capital punishment.Social Forces, 36, 165–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kobil, D. T. (1991). The quality of mercy strained: Wrestling the pardoning power from the king.Texas Law Review, 69, 569–641.Google Scholar
  14. Lumer, M. & Tenney, N. (1995). The death penalty in New York: An historical perspective.Journal of Law & Policy, 4, 81–142.Google Scholar
  15. Mangum, C. S., Jr. (1940).The legal status of the negro. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  16. Marquart, J. W. & Ekland-Olson, S., & Sorenson, J. R. (1994).The rope, the chair and the needle: Capital punishment in Texas 1923–1990. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  17. Maryland Legislative Council Committee (1962).Report of the legislative council committee on capital punishment. Baltimore: Maryland State Legislature.Google Scholar
  18. Mitchell, G. A. (ed.) (1995).The red book (93rd ed.). Guilderland, NY: New York Legal Publishing Corp.Google Scholar
  19. New York Constitution, Article 4, §4.Google Scholar
  20. Ohio Legislative Service Commission (1961).Capital punishment research report no. 46. Columbus: State of Ohio.Google Scholar
  21. Pindyk, R. S. & Rubinfeld, D. L. (1981).Econometric models and economic forecasts. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.Google Scholar
  22. Streib, V. L. (1998). Executing women, children, and the retarded: Second-class citizens in capital punishment. In J. R. Acker, R. M. Bohm, & C. S. Lanier (Eds.),America’s experiment with capital punishment: Reflections on the past, present, and future of the ultimate penal sanction. Durham, NC: Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  23. Tabak, R. J. (1986). The death of fairness: The arbitrary and capricious imposition of the death penalty in the 1980’s.New York University Review of Law & Social Change, 14, 797–848.Google Scholar
  24. Vandiver, M. (1993). The quality of mercy: Race and clemency in Florida death penalty cases, 1924–1966.University of Richmond Law Review, 27, 315–343.Google Scholar
  25. Weisberg, R. (1983). Deregulating death.Supreme Court Review, 8, 305–395.Google Scholar
  26. Wolfgang, M. E. & Kelly, A. K., & Nolde, H.C. (1962). Comparison of the executed and commuted among admissions to death row.Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology & Police Science, 53, 301–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Southern Criminal Justice Association 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminal JusticeUniversity at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbany

Personalised recommendations