Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Committee Chair

Austin, D. Mark

Author's Keywords

Death penalty; Media; Capital punishment; Public opinion


Executions and executioners--Press coverage; Mass media and public opinion; Capital punishment in popular culture; Death row inmates--Press coverage


The public's exposure to state sanctioned killings is limited to the mass media representations such as editorials, news reports, feature films, and books. Therefore it is important to examine the process of execution and its relation to the media forms that construct a social reality of execution for the public. The messages of the mass media and the images they portray are a crucial element of capital punishment because they represent a social construction of reality that may guide the beliefs and opinions of the public (Heath & Gilbert 1996). Using Ethnographic Content Analysis (Althiede 1987), this study uses the media representations of state sanctioned executions that are presented in films to explore how the media constructs messages about the ritual of execution. The research demonstrates the ways in which media creates an outlet of information for the public about execution because the act itself is so privatized in society and discusses how these opinions shape public policy.