Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Dwayne Smith, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

John Cochran, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sondra Fogel, Ph.D.


Capital punishment, Victim-offender relationships, Death sentence, Murder, Aggravating circumstances


This study is an investigation of whether familial relationships among offenders and their victims affect capital sentencing. Using a sample of capital cases from North Carolina restricted to familial homicides, logistic regression models are used while controlling for legal and extra-legal factors that influence decision outcomes. Such models of capital sentencing are developed to (1) determine whether familial-victim cases have unique correlates; and (2) whether there are variations in the effects of these correlates across gender. Contradictory to these hypotheses, results suggest that acquaintance and stranger relationships are less likely to receive a capital outcome when compared to familial relationships. Therefore, in North Carolina it appears that familial relationships receive capital outcomes more frequently than other types of victimoffender relationships. Additionally, gender of both victim and offender, do not exhibit a statistically significant effect in North Carolina at the penalty processing phase of capital trials.