Exploring the Role of Victim Sex, Victim Conduct, and Victim–Defendant Relationship in Capital Punishment Sentencing

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Disparities in the administration of capital punishment are a prominent social and political issue. Recent studies indicate that victim characteristics of sex and race produce interactive effects on capital-sentencing outcomes. Extending this line of research, the current analysis explores the intersection of victim sex with victim conduct and victim–defendant relationship, utilizing a population of North Carolina capital cases spanning the years 1977 to 2009 (N = 1,285). Findings indicate that cases with a female victim who was not involved in illegal activity at the time of the murder and acquaintance female victim cases are most likely to result in a death recommendation. Potential reasons for these findings are discussed.