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Capital Punishment


What are the rationales for the death penalty, and what does the evidence tell us about these? ... Race and the Death Penalty ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment
  • What are the rationales for the death penalty,
    and what does the evidence tell us about these?

International Context
  • United States is unique among Western
    industrialized countries.
  • In 1999, 86 of all known executions took place
    in the Congo, China, Iran and the United States.
  • Many countries now consider capital punishment to
    be a human rights violation and refuse to
    extradite someone who may be executed in the
    United States.

History in the United States
  • Has been used since colonial times first
    recorded execution was in 1608.
  • 1930-1967 Nearly 4,000 people were executed. Of
    these, over half (54) were black, 45 were
    white. Three out of five executions during this
    period took place in the southern U.S. states.
  • In 1972--Furman v. Georgia
  • In 1976 the Court reinstated the death penalty
    after a ten year moratorium.

Argument 1. Deterrence (general)
  • Cross-sectional studies
  • Longitudinal studies

Argument 2. Incapacitation
  • Obviously, an incapacitative effect occurs.
  • But this can be achieved in other ways for truly
    dangerous offenders.
  • Also, most people convicted of homicide are first
    time offenders.

Argument 3. Retribution
  • A moral rather than an empirical claim.
  • Question does it require that the same act be
  • Psychological studies on effect on victims

Other Concerns Fiscal Costs
  • Long-term incarceration is expensive.
  • But litigate capital cases is also expensive.
  • CA state government estimates that it costs 5
    million to execute and 1 million to imprison for
  • Kansas legislature abolished due to expense.

  • Many innocent people have been sentenced to death
    and even executed.
  • ATEDPA of 1996 has made it more difficult for
    federal death row inmates to appeal their
  • Many states do not provide financial assistance
    to capital defendants to appeal their

The Case of Roger Keith Coleman
  • Convicted of killing his sister-in-law scheduled
    to die in 1992.
  • After trial, exculpatory evidence was discovered.
    But the U.S. Court refused to halt the execution
  • Coleman was executed as scheduled.
  • SC Justice Blackmun The execution of a person
    who can show he is innocent comes perilously
    close to murder.

Race and the Death Penalty
  • Blacks are significantly more likely to be
    sentenced to death than whites, especially if the
    victim was white.
  • This arguably violates the 8th and 14th
  • But SC has held that intent to discriminate must
    be shown in a particular case.

Public Opinion
  • About 75 of Americans report being in favor of
    the death penalty. But
  • If they have the option of being undecided,
    support drops to about 60.
  • When told it has no deterrent effect, support
    drops to about 55.
  • 62 say they are comfortable with life in prison
    as an alternative to death.

Other Issues
  • Why the secrecy?
  • What does it do to the people involved in the
  • What does it represent to the rest of the world,
    and how does this affect us?
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