Source: (2011) Western criminolgy review. 12(1):65-81
Purpose: The goals of this project are 1) to document the patterns of opposition to the death penalty promoted by
victims’families following the ascendency of the retribution and closure arguments in support of capital punishment, and 2)
to assess the scope and primacy of newspaper coverage of death penalty cases with anti-capital punishment covictims.
Methods: Content analysis of nationwide newspaper reports on capital offense trials from 1992-2009 is used to assess
patterns of victim resistance to the death penalty over time, the reasons given for support or resistance to the death penalty,
and the scope and primacy of the newspaper coverage of the capital case.
Results: The analysis reveals a significant increase in covictim clemency movements across the study time period. Further,
articles representing pro-death penalty covictims received both significantly higher primacy of media coverage in section
and page number and word count than did their anti-death penalty counterparts. Lastly, a qualitative assessment of
covictims’ statements reveals several reasons for co-victim support or resistance to the death penalty.
Conclusions: Covictim opposition to the death penalty in reaction to the ascendancy of retribution and closure justifications
for capital punishment must be integrated into ongoing debates about the death penalty.
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