Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis campus only


Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Benjamin Sosnaud

Second Advisor

Sarah Beth Kaufman


Many studies on capital punishment use death sentence or execution data to perform analyses. This paper seeks to expand our understanding of the death penalty by using capital trial data, including life sentences and death sentences, from 2007 to 2018 in California. Using news articles, every capital trial during this time period was recorded, then analyzed in conjunction with numerous county-level variables (e.g., racial demographics, crime rates). These data demonstrate that county population is the strongest predictor of the prevalence of capital trials in a given county. Apart from racial demographics, key county-level variables do not exhibit meaningful relationships with the prevalence of capital trials. This paper then argues that the lack of knowledge surrounding capital trials is a product of strategic ignorance on the part of the state.