Soc 320 Research Opportunity: Racial Violence & Capital Punishment

Working With: Julia Thomas,  Contact Julia to apply.

Topic: Racial Violence & Capital Punishment
This project seeks to evaluate the legacy of racial violence and vigilantism on modern-day capital punishment in the United States. Examining the role of racialized norms in contemporary sentencing, I test whether violations of the “racial order” in the U.S.—that is, harm to white individuals—shapes the sentencing of persons of color, and black Americans in particular. The project also looks to determine whether these sentencing patterns are distinct in geographic locales with a history of racial violence and vigilantism. The goal of this project is to evaluate and uncover the ways in which historical forms of racial oppression influence the modern criminal justice system.

Activities: As a research assistant, you will be instrumental in developing a new dataset for the study of race, capital punishment, and historic forms of inequality and violence. This largely entails creating files text files from a set of historical records in PDF form, to be merged into a dataset. After this task is complete, there are other important tasks, including independent data gathering from court records and other primary sources, which we can discuss further, if the student(s) is/are interested.


  • Pierce, Radelet, and Sharp 2017: “Race and Death Sentencing for Oklahoma Homicides Committed Between 1990 and 2012”
  • Jacobs, Carmichael, and Kent 2005: “Vigilantism, Current Racial Threat, and Death Sentences”