This course considers the legal, political, and social implications of the practice of capital punishment in America, with an emphasis on contemporary legal issues. The course will frame contemporary questions by considering some historical perspectives on the use of the death penalty in America and by delving into the moral philosophical debate about the justice of capital punishment as a state practice. It will explore in detail the intricate constitutional doctrines developed by the Supreme Court in the four decades since the Court "constitutionalized" capital punishment in the early 1970's. Doctrinal topics to be covered include the role of aggravating and mitigating factors in guiding the sentencer's decision to impose life or death; challenges to the arbitrary and/or racially discriminatory application of the death penalty; the ineligibility of juveniles and persons with mental retardation for capital punishment, limits on the exclusion and inclusion of jurors in capital trials; allocation of authority between judges and juries in capital sentencing; and the scope of federal habeas review of death sentences, among other topics.
Prerequisite: Criminal Law
Some seats are reserved for students enrolled in the Capital Punishment Clinic. Students must be enrolled in the clinic before they can claim one of these reserved seats. A student’s enrollment in a reserved clinical seat is dependent on the student’s enrollment in the Capital Punishment Clinic. Please see the clinic’s description for more information.