The graphs below attempt to model a projected decline in the use of the death penalty in the United States.
y = -32.1535(x-2007.2885)e.1207(x-2007.2885)
Or, this may be following something more like a "bell" (normal distribution) curve:
y = 98e-.02(x-1999)²
The points plotted around these curves are yearly totals of "executions" in the US (the total for each
year is plotted on the line for the beginning of the year) -- the point for 2009 (67) is a
projected number, based on the 29 state murders which will have occurred in the US through May 26.
The first curve has the basic form of the altitude-distance or altitude-time curves for
flight 191, which crashed in
Chicago May 25, 1979
(less than 6 hours after the first involuntary "execution" in this country since 1967);
i.e., the plane increased its
rate of climb to an "inflection point" (rate of steepest climb), then, as it lost lift,
reached its peak altitude,
then went into a rapidly increasing rate of descent.
The first curve also has the basic form of the course of a "price bubble", or "pyramid scheme", which tends to collapse rapidly at the end (as the idea gets around that the death penalty is a dodo, and not a wave of the future, we can expect many Americans to quickly withdraw their support for it).
The ending point for the first curve is the time (early on April 16, 2007) of the last (latest) execution scheduled by either California, or the US federal government.
The inflection point of the first curve occurs at 1990.72 (almost in 1994, considering that that curve is shifted to the left, to put its peak at the beginning of 1999), and the left-hand inflection point of the second, at 1994; and popular support for the death penalty in the US reached a post-World War II peak of 80% in 19941, so US public opinion may be paralleling these curves' derivatives.2 And, in 1994, Harry A. Blackmun (who wrote the federal appeals court ruling3 which facilitated the hanging by the US Government of Victor Feguer on March 15, 1963), in dissenting from a US Supreme Court denial of a writ of certiorari for a Texas death row inmate, denounced the death penalty.4
Time will tell what happens with the death penalty in the US, and whether it collapses in the time frame one of these curves
would seem to predict.
1Article "Bush May Be Hurt by Handling of Capital Punishment Issue", The Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2000
2In the case of the first graph, not the actual first derivative (which would reach zero in 1999), but (assuming public support for the death penalty of, say, less than 66% would make abolition feasible) that curve adjusted so that it peaked at about 80% in 1994, and got below 66% by 2003.
3Feguer v. United States, 302 F.2d 214, April 16, 1962 (a federal case from Iowa / Illinois)
4Callins v. Collins, 510 U.S. 1141, Feb. 22, 1994, in which Blackmun wrote: "From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored -- indeed, I have struggled -- along with a majority of this court, to develop procedural and substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor. Rather than continue to coddle the court's delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved and the need for regulation eviscerated, I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self-evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies. The basic question -- does the system accurately and consistently determine which defendants 'deserve' to die? -- cannot be answered in the affirmative. It is not simply that this Court has allowed vague aggravating circumstances to be employed, see, e.g., Arave v. Creech ....(1993), relevant mitigating evidence to be disregarded, see, e.g., Johnson v. Texas ....(1993), and vital judicial review to be blocked, see, e.g., Coleman v. Thompson ....(1992). The problem is that the inevitability of factual, legal, and moral error gives us a system that we know must wrongly kill some defendants, a system that fails to deliver the fair, consistent, and reliable sentences of death required by the constitution .... Perhaps one day this Court will develop procedural rules or verbal formulas that actually will provide consistency, fairness, and reliability in a capital sentencing scheme. I am not optimistic that such a day will come. I am more optimistic, though, that this court eventually will conclude that the effort to eliminate arbitrariness while preserving fairness 'in the infliction of [death] is so plainly doomed to failure that it -- and the death penalty -- must be abandoned altogether.' Godfrey v. Georgia ....(1980) (Marshall, J. [Justice Thurgood Marshall], concurring in judgment). I may not live to see that day, but I have faith that eventually it will arrive. The path the Court has chosen lessens us all. I dissent."