Death Penalty Cases in Relation to Othered Status

This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.

The tPP data set[1] contains 17 cases that resulted in a death penalty conviction.  These cases were analyzed in a separate data set to determine if there were any consistencies or correlations between the cases.  The variable of othered status was considered because of the rhetoric that surrounds terrorism.  According to Panagopoulos, “The terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, fueled widespread concern and speculation about mounting Islamophobic sentiment among Americans in response to the events.”[2]  Since Americans say this large act of terrorism committed by those of an Islamic faith, they believe that all severe acts of terrorism are also committed by members of that same faith.

This can be proven to be false by analyzing the cases of death penalty convictions and noting that the number of individuals who commit crimes that receive death penalty convictions is almost three times higher for those who are non-othered than those who are considered othered.  This indicates that there is almost three times as many non-othered individuals making up the death penalty subset than othered individuals.  This demonstrates that othered people are not committing the acts of terrorism that receive the harshest sentences and subsequently are not committing the most violent or heinous acts of terrorism.

This is important distinction to note because of the rhetoric that surrounds terrorism. Also, it is important to know that when the entire tPP data set[4] is statistically analyzed using descriptive statistics in SPSS, it was determined that the whole data set consists of 60.32% othered individuals.  This shows that even though they are not committing the most atrocious acts with the harshest sentences they make up the majority of acts of terrorism.

This can be explained through the use of terror management theory.  Terror management theory[5] enables one to protects their self-esteem and asserts their superiority of their own group versus the inferiority of the other groups.  This leads to prejudices and discrimination of those inferior groups in order to protect the superior groups self-worth, value as a group, or overall feeling of safety and security.  Those of the in-group, or members of the majority, will discriminate against minorities in order to protect against their own personal fears and protect their own self-esteem.  This may explain why the United States convicts so many members of the Muslim faith even if they are not committing the harshest crimes.  The members of the superior group are still basing assumptions off of one attack that caused mass amounts of public fear and has thus caused discrimination and bias to ensue for those of the othered status.

– Hannah Hendricks


[1] Loadenthal, Michael, Zoe Belford, Izzy Bielamowicz, Jacob Bishop, Athena Chapekis, Morgan Demboski, Bridget Dickens, Lauren Donahoe, Alexandria Doty, Megan Drown, Jessica Enhelder, Angela Famera, Kayla Groneck, Nikki Gundimeda, Hannah Hendricks, Isabella Jackson, Taylor Maddox, Sarah Moore, Katie Reilly, Elizabeth Springer, Michael Thompson, Tia Turner, Brenda Uriona, Brendan Newman, Jenn Peters, Rachel Faraci, Maggie McCutcheon, and Megan Zimmerer, 2018. “The Prosecution Project (tPP) October 2018” Miami University Sociology Department. Loadenthal 2018. “The Prosecution Project (Decision Tree)”

[2] Public Opinion Quarterly, Volume 70, Issue 4, 1 January 2006, Pages 608–624,

[3] Hendricks. “The Prosecution Project (death penalty variable subset) October 2018” Miami University Sociology Department.

[4] (Loadenthal et. al, 2018)

[5] Greenberg, Jeff. “Terror Management Theory.” Encyclopedia of Social Psychology, 2008. doi:10.4135/9781412956253.n580.

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