COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- States that are freest with the death penalty now tend to be the states that at one time had the highest number of lynchings, Ohio researchers say.
"Our results suggest that the death penalty has become a sort of legal replacement for the lynchings in the past," said David Jacobs, a professor of sociology at Ohio State University and a co-author of the study. "This hasn't been done overtly, and probably no one has consciously made such a decision. But the results show a clear connection."
Jacobs, Ohio State graduate student Jason Carmichael and Stephanie Kent, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, looked at death penalty sentences in the mainland 48 states in 1971-72, 1981-82 and 1991-92. They computed lynching rates with data from 1889 to 1931 provided by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
They also found that death penalty rates go up as the black population of a state increases, possibly because they are seen as more of a threat. When the black population hits a threshold of 20 to 25 percent, the death penalty becomes less popular, possibly because blacks now have some political clout.