Comparative Capital Punishment
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Comparative Capital Punishment

Edited by Carol S. Steiker and Jordan M. Steiker

Comparative Capital Punishment offers a set of in-depth, critical and comparative contributions addressing death practices around the world. Despite the dramatic decline of the death penalty in the last half of the twentieth century, capital punishment remains in force in a substantial number of countries around the globe. This research handbook explores both the forces behind the stunning recent rejection of the death penalty, as well as the changing shape of capital practices where it is retained. The expert contributors address the social, political, economic, and cultural influences on both retention and abolition of the death penalty and consider the distinctive possibilities and pathways to worldwide abolition.
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Chapter 6: Towards a global theory of capital clemency incidence

Daniel Pascoe


As legal historian Carolyn Strange has written: ‘The most striking aspect of pardoning is that rates of commutation differed between jurisdictions and varied over time within jurisdictions’. Some death penalty retentionist nations grant executive clemency as a matter of course, whereas some grant it never or hardly ever. There are also nations which fall at every gradation in between, from capital clemency ‘rates’ of well under 1 percent to over 90 percent. Yet explanations for clemency incidence have received far less academic attention than typologies for and normative prescription of clemency justifications, or comparative study of constitutional provisions on clemency. To fill this gap in the literature, this chapter proposes a theoretically coherent account of why clemency is granted in greater or lesser proportions in different retentionist jurisdictions around the world. The most theoretically convincing factors contributing towards clemency incidence are the political status of the final decision-maker, the extent to which cases less deserving of death are filtered away from clemency or execution at earlier stages, how bureaucratized and regulated the clemency power has become and the length of time that death row prisoners spend incarcerated before they are assessed for mercy.

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