Ever since California added the death penalty to its penal code in the 1870s, supporters have argued that the threat of executions would make potential murderers think twice before committing heinous crimes.
The Bee made that argument numerous times in its early years, and many politicians and prosecutors have offered it since. But does the evidence show that capital punishment deters murders, even when applied frequently and expeditiously? Research suggests it does not.
One obvious way to look at the problem is to compare the murder rates in states with executions and those without.