Submitted by Megan L. Estes on Monday, 1/3/2011, at 3:43 PM

Colloquium 34

America’s Death Penalty


Austin Sarat

Clark 101





The United States, almost alone among constitutional democracies, retains death as a criminal punishment. It does so in the face of growing international pressure for abolition and of evidence that the system for deciding who lives and who dies is fraught with error. This seminar is designed to expose students to America’s death penalty as a researchable subject. It will be organized to help students understand how research is framed in this area, analyze theories and approaches of death penalty researchers, and identify open questions and most promising lines of future research. It will focus on the following dimensions of America’s death penalty: its history, current status, public support/opposition, the processing of capital cases in the criminal justice system, race and capital punishment, and its impact and efficacy. During the seminar, each student will develop a prospectus for a research project on America’s death penalty.          


I. Introduction-What is a Researchable Question?: Meaning, Change, Difference, Impact


II. Philosophical Perspectives on Capital Punishment

            Albert Camus, “Reflections of the Guillotine,” 131-156, 168-179

            Walter Berns, For Capital Punishment, 153-176



Other Sources:           

Robert Blecker, “The Death Penalty: Where We Are Now,” 46 New York Law School                         Law Review (2002-2003), 665

Robert Blecker, “Killing Them Softly: Meditations on a Painful Punishment of Death,” 35 Fordham Urban Law Journal (2008), 969

Robert Bork, “Scalia and Capital Punishment,” 126 First Things  (October 2002), 8

George Kateb, Patriotism and Other Mistakes

William Connolly, The Ethos of Pluralization, 41-49, 58-74

Ernst van den Haag, “Why Capital Punishment,” 54 Albany Law Review (1989), 501

Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, “Is Capital Punishment Morally Required - Acts, Omissions, and Life-Life Tradeoffs,” 58 Stanford Law Review (2005), 703

Immanuel Kant, The Philosophy of Law

Antonin Scalia, “God’s Justice and Ours,” 156 Law & Justice-The Christian Law Review (2006), 3

Bernard Hoose, “Moral Theology and Capital Punishment,” 156 Law & Justice-The Christian Law Review (2006), 11


III. Public Support for Capital Punishment


Samuel R. Gross and Phoebe Ellsworth, “Second Thoughts: American’s Views on the Death Penalty at the Turn of the Century,” in Beyond Repair: America’s Death Penalty, Stephen Garvey, ed.


Other Sources:

Samuel R. Gross & Phoebe C. Ellsworth, “Hardening of the Attitudes: Americans Views on the Death Penalty,” 50 Journal of Social Issues (1994), 19-52

Samuel R. Gross & Phoebe C. Ellsworth, “Public Opinion and Capital Punishment: A Close Examination of the Views of Abolitionists and Retentionists,” 29 Crime and Delinquency (1983), 116-169

William Bowers, “Capital Punishment and Contemporary Values: People's Misgivings and the Court's Misperceptions,” 27 Law and Society Review (1993), 157-175

Samuel R. Gross, “The Romance of Revenge: Capital Punishment in America,” 13 Studies in Law, Politics, and Society (1993), 71-104



IV. Comparative Perspectives: American Exceptionalism?


Carol Steiker, “Capital Punishment and American Exceptionalism,” in American Exceptionalism and Human Rights,  Michael Ignatieff ed.


Other Sources:

Roger Hood, The Death Penalty: A World-Wide Perspective

Raymond Paternoster, Capital Punishment in America

William A. Schabas, The Abolition of the Death Penalty in International Law

Franklin E. Zimring & Gordon Hawkins, Capital Punishment and the American Agenda

Austin Sarat and Christain Boulanger, eds.  The Cultural Lives of Capital Punishment: Comparative Perspectives

Austin Sarat and Jurgen Martschukat, eds.  Is the Death Penalty Dying? European and American Perspectives


V.  From Lynch Mobs to the Killing State


            David Garland, “Penal Excess and Surplus Meaning: Public Torture Lynchings in   Twentieth-Century America,” 39 Law & Society Review (2005)


Other Sources:

Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, "Capital Punishment as Legal Lynching," in From Lynch Mobs to the Killing State: Race and the Death Penalty, Austin Sarat and Charles Ogletree, eds.

Franklin Zimring, The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment

James Allen, Hilton Als, John Lewis, and Leon F. Litwack, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America

Stewart E. Tolnay and E.M. Beck, A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930

Cynthia Skove Nevels, Lynching to Belong: Claiming Whiteness Through Racial Violence

Philip Dray, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America            

Stewart Tolnay et al, “Vicarious Violence: Spatial Effects on Southern Lynchings, 1890-1919,” 102 American Journal of Sociology (1996), 788


VI. The Legal Framework


            Furman v. Georgia, 408 US 238 (1972), 238-314, 375-405

            Gregg v. Georgia, 428 US 153 (1976), 153-187, 196-198, 206-207, 227-231


Other Sources:

McCleskey v. Kemp, 107 S. Ct. (1987), 1756-1794

Callins v. Collins, 62 USLW (1994), 3546-3550; Acker, J. R. (1993).

 “A Different Agenda: The Supreme Court, Empirical Research Evidence, and Capital  Punishment Decisions, 1986-1989,”  27 Law and Society Review (1992), 65-88

 Carol S. Steiker and Jordan M. Steiker, “Sober Second Thoughts: Reflections on Two Decades of Constitutional Regulation of Capital Punishment,” 109 Harvard Law Review (1995), 355-438

Lee Epstein and Joseph Kobylka, The Supreme Court and Legal Change: Abortion and the Death Penalty

 Carol Steiker,“Things Fall Apart, But the Center Holds: The Supreme Court and the Death Penalty,” 77 NYU Law Review (2002), 1475

Stephen Calabresi and Stephanie Zimdahl, “The Supreme Court and Foreign Sources of Law: Two Hundred Years of Practice and the Juvenile Death Penalty Decision,” found at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=700176

Robin West, “Narrative, Responsibility and Death: A Comment on the Death Penalty Cases from the 1989 Term,” 1 Maryland Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues (1990), 161



VII: The Legal Process: Trials


Austin Sarat, When the State Kills; Capital Punishment and the American Condition, chapter 4


Other Sources:

Mark Costanzo and Lawrence White, “An Overview of the Death Penalty and Capital Trials: History, Current Status, Legal Procedures, and Cost,” 50 Journal of Social Issues (1994), 1

Mark Costanzo and Lawrence White, “Attorney Persuasion in the Capital Penalty Phase: A Content Analysis of Closing Arguments,” 50 Journal of Social Issues (1994), 125

James Luginbuhl, Michael Burkhead, “Sources of Bias and Arbitrariness in the Capital Trial,” 50 Journal of Social Issues (1994), 103

 Kyle Graham, “Tactical Ineffective Assistance in Capital Trials,” 57 American University Law Review (2008), 1645

Judy Platania1 and Gary Moran, “Due Process and the Death Penalty: The Role of Prosecutorial Misconduct in Closing Argument in Capital Trials,” 23 Law and Human Behavior (1999), 471-486

William Geimer, “Law and Reality in the Capital Penalty Trial,” 18 NYU Review of Law & Social Change (1990), 273

James Doyle, “Lawyers' Art: Representation in Capital Cases,” 8 Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities (1996), 417


VIII: The Legal Process: Victim Impact Statements


Austin Sarat, When the State Kills; Capital Punishment and the American Condition, chapter 2


Other Sources:

Wayne Logan, “When Balance and Fairness Collide: An Argument for Execution Impact Evidence in Capital Trials, 33 University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform (1999-2000), 1-37

Christine Marton, “Admissibility of Victim Impact Evidence at the Sentencing Phase of a Capital Trial,” 31 Duquense Law Review (1992), 801-818

Theodore Eisenberg, et al., “Victim Characteristics and Victim Impact Evidence in South Carolina Capital Case,” 88 Cornell Law Review (2002), 306

Scott Sunby, “Capital Jury and Empathy: The Problem of Worthy and Unworthy Victims,” 88 Cornell Law Review (2002), 343

Janice Nadler and Mary Rose, “Victim Impact Testimony and the Psychology of Punishment,” 88 Cornell Law Review (2002), 419

Joseph L.Hoffmann, “Revenge or Mercy - Some Thoughts about Survivor Opinion Evidence in Death Penalty Cases,” 88 Cornell Law Review (2002), 530

Wayne Logan, “Victim Impact Evidence in Federal Capital Trials,” 19 Federal Sentencing Reporter (2006), 5-12

Susan Bandes, “Empathy, Narrative, and Victim Impact Statements,” 63 University of Chicago Law Review (1996), 361




IX.  The Legal Process: Juries


Austin Sarat, When the State Kills; Capital Punishment and the American Condition, chapter 5


Other sources:

Stephen Garvey, “Aggravation and Mitigation in Capital Cases: What Do Jurors Think?,” 98 Columbia Law Review (1998), 1538

William Bowers, et al, “Foreclosed Impartiality in Capital Sentencing: Jurors' Predispositions Guilt-Trial Experience and Premature Decision Making,” 83 Cornell Law Review (1997), 1476

 Theodore Eisenberg, et. al., “Jury Responsibility in Capital Cases: An Empirical Study,” 44 Buffalo Law Review (1996), 339

Mark Costanzo & Sally Costanzo, “The Death Penalty: Public Opinions, Legal Decisions, and Juror Perspectives,” in Mark Costanzo & Stuart Oskamp (Ed.), Violence and The Law (1994)

Mark Costanzo & Sally Costanzo,“Life or Death Decisions: An Analysis of Capital Jury Decision Making Under the Special Issues Sentencing Framework,”18, Law and Human Behavior (1994),151- 170

Craig Haney, Lorelei Sontag, Sally Costanzo,“Deciding to Take a Life: Capital Juries, Sentencing Instructions, and the Jurisprudence of Death,” 50 Journal of Social Issues (1994), 149

Alex Kotlowitz, “In The Face of Death,” NY Times (July 6, 2003)

Benjamin  Fleury-Steiner, Jurors’ Stories of Death: How America’s Death Penalty Invests in Inequality

 Benjamin D Steiner, William J. Bowers, and Austin Sarat,"Folk Knowledge as Legal  Action:  Death Penalty Judgments and the Tenet of Early Release in a Culture of Mistrust and Punitiveness” 33 Law & Society Review (1999), 461-506


X.  The Legal Process: Miscarriages of Justice in Capital Cases


Samuel R. Gross, “Lost Lives: Miscarriages of Justice in Capital Cases,” 61 Law & Contemp. Probs. (Autumn 1998), 125


Other sources:

Stephen B. Bright, “Discrimination, Death and Denial: The Tolerance of Racial Discrimination in Infliction of the Death Penalty,” 35 Santa Clara Law Review (1995), 433-483

Susan Bandes, “Simple Murder: A Comment on the Legality of Executing the Innocent,” 44 Buffalo Law Review (1996), 501

Samuel Gross, “The Risks of Death: Why Erroneous Convictions Are Common in Capital Cases,” 44 Buffalo Law Review (1996), 469

Talia Harmon, “Predictors of Miscarriages of Justice in Capital Cases,” 18 Justice Quarterly (2001), 949

James Lieberman et al, “Capital Attrition: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995,” 78 Texas Law Review (1999-2000), 1839

Michael Mello, “Facing Death Alone: The Post-Conviction Attorney Crisis on Death Row.” 37 The American University Law Review (1988), 513-607

Michael L. Radelet & Hugo A. Bedau, “Fallibility and Finality: Type II Errors and Capital Punishment” in K. C. Haas & J. A. Inciardi (Eds.), Challenging Capital Punishment (1988)

Michael L. Radelet & Hugo A. Bedau, & Constance E. Putnam, In Spite of Innocence: Erroneous Convictions in Capital Cases


XI: The Legal Process: Clemency


Austin Sarat and Nassar Hussain, "On Lawful Lawlessness: George Ryan, Executive Clemency and the Rhetoric of Sparing Life," 56 Stanford Law Review  (2004)


Other sources:

Hugo Adam Bedau, “Decline of Executive Clemency in Capital Cases,” 18 NYU Review of Law and Social Change (1990), 255

Daniel Kobil, “Due Process in Death Penalty Commutations: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Clemency,” 27 University of Richmond Law Review (1992), 201

Bruce Ledewitz and Scott Staples, “The Role of Executive Clemency in Modern Death Penalty Cases,” 27 University of Richmond Law Review (1992), 227

Kathleen Dean Moore, “Pardon for Good and Sufficient Reasons,” 27 University of Richmond Law Review (1992), 281

Margaret Vandiver, “Quality of Mercy: Race and Clemency in Florida Death Penalty Cases, 1924-1966,” 27 University of Richmond Law Review (1992), 315

Michael Radelet and Barbara Zsemblik, “Executive Clemency in Post-Furman Capital Cases,”  27 University of Richmond Law Review (1992), 289

Alyson Dinsmore, “Clemency in Capital Cases: The Need to Ensure Meaningful Review,” 49 UCLA Law Review (2001), 1825

 Paul Cobb, “Reviving Mercy in the Structure of Capital Punishment,” 99 Yale Law Journal (1989), 389


XII: The Cultural Life of Capital Punishment


            FILM: Dead Man Walking

Austin Sarat, When the State Kills; Capital Punishment and the American Condition, chapter 8


Other Sources:

David Dow, “Fictional Documentaries and Truthful Fictions: The Death Penalty in Recent American Film,” 17 Constitutional Comment (2000), 511

Danilo Yanich, “Making the Movies Real: The Death Penalty & Local TV News,” 26 Crime, Law and Social Change (1996), 303

Philip Meyer, “Using Non-Fiction Films as Visual Texts in the First-Year Criminal Law Course,” 28 Vermont Law Review (2003), 895

Linda Williams, “Melodrama in Black and White: Uncle Tom and The Green Mile,” 55 Film Quarterly (2001), 14

Alan Helmreich and Paul Marcusm, “Dead Man Walking,” 83 The Psychoanalytic Review (1996), 780

Carole Shapiro, “Do or Die: Does Dead Man Walking Run?” 30 University of San Francisco Law Review (1995), 1143

Robert Harding, “Celluloid Death: Cinematic Depictions of Capital Punishment,” 30 University of San Francisco Law Review (1995), 1167

Robert Batey, "Reflections on the Needle: Poe, Baze, Dead Man Walking," 44 Valparaiso University Law Review (2009-2010), 37-68

J. Richard Broughton, "Every Day More Wicked: Reflections on Culture, Politics, and Punishment by Death," 22 Journal of Law & Politics (2006), 113-133

Diana George and Diane Shoos, “Deflecting the Political in the Visual Images of Execution and the Death Penalty Debate," 67  College English (2005), 587-609

John R. Hamilton, "Non-Fiction Adaptation as Propaganda: 'Dead Man Walking’," 30 Literature-Film Quarterly (2002), 119-25

Craig Haney, "Media Criminology and the Death Penalty," 58 DePaul Law Review  (2008-2009), 689-740

Patricia Molloy, "Face to Face with the Dead Man: Ethical Responsibility, State-Sanctioned Killing, and Empathetic Impossibility," 22 Alternatives: Social Transformation and Humane Governance (1997), 467-92

Sean O'Sullivan, "Representing 'The Killing State': The Death Penalty in Nineties Hollywood Cinema," 42  Howard Journal of Criminal Justice (2003), 485-503

Andrew E. Taslitz, "Daredevil and the Death Penalty," 1 Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law (2004), 699-717



XIII: Presentation of Research Proposals-I


XIV: Presentation of Research Proposals-II




Postscript: Among the topics that we have not covered you might be interested in: The Death Penalty in American History; Methods of Execution; and The Impact of Capital Punishment: Does the Death Penalty Deter