Carol S. Steiker

Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law

Special Advisor for Public Service

Griswold 409

617-496-5457

Assistant: Maureen Worth / 617-496-2430

Biography

Carol Steiker is the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School. She specializes in the broad field of criminal justice, where her work ranges from substantive criminal law to criminal procedure to institutional design, with a special focus on issues related to capital punishment. Recent publications address topics such as the relationship of criminal justice scholarship to law reform, the role of mercy in the institutions of criminal justice, and the likelihood of nationwide abolition of capital punishment. Her most recent book, Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment, co-authored with her brother Jordan Steiker of the University of Texas School of Law, was published by Harvard University Press in November, 2016.

Professor Steiker is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she served as president of the Harvard Law Review, the second woman to hold that position in its then 99-year history. After clerking for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court, she worked as a staff attorney for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where she represented indigent defendants at all stages of the criminal process. In addition to her scholarly work, Professor Steiker has worked on pro bono litigation projects on behalf of indigent criminal defendants, including death penalty cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. She also has served as a consultant and expert witness on issues of criminal justice for non-profit organizations and has testified before Congress and state legislatures.

Areas of Interest

Adriaan M. Lanni & Carol S. Steiker, A Thematic Approach to Teaching Criminal Adjudication, 60 St. Louis U. L.J. 463 (2016).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Legal Education
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker & Jordan M. Steiker, The American Death Penalty and the (In)Visibility of Race, 82 U. Chi. L. Rev. 243 (2015).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
,
Sentencing & Punishment
,
Race & Ethnicity
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker, Can/Should We Purge Evil Through Capital Punishment?, 9 Crim. L. & Phil. 367 (2015).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker & Jordan M. Steiker, Judicial Developments in Capital Punishment Law, in America's Experiment with Capital Punishment Reflections on the Past, Present, and Future of the Ultimate Penal Sanction (James R. Acker, Robert M. Bohm & Charles S. Lanier, eds. 2003).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
Type: Book
Abstract
The second edition of America's Experiment with Capital Punishment is an updated and expanded version of the comprehensive first edition. Authored by the country's leading legal and social science scholars, it includes information concerning racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty, wrongful convictions, deterrence, the prediction of future dangerousness, jury decision-making, public opinion about the death penalty, the effects of the capital punishment process on murder victims' and offenders' relatives, death row incarceration, the costs of capital punishment, execution methods, and many other issues. New legal developments are tracked, including the Supreme Court's 2002 decisions prohibiting the execution of mentally retarded offenders (Atkins vs. Virginia) and requiring juries to find all essential facts supporting sentences of death (Ring vs. Arizona); the moratorium on executions imposed by former Illinois Governor Ryan and Ryan's ensuing commutation in January 2003 of all Illinois prisoners under sentence of death; federal habeas corpus policies; and other changes in death penalty laws and practices.
Carol S. Steiker, Gideon's Problematic Promises, 143 Daedalus 51 (2014).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker & Jordan M. Steiker, Lessons for Law Reform from the American Experiment with Capital Punishment, 87 S. Cal. L. Rev. 733 (2014).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
,
Sentencing & Punishment
,
Legal Reform
Type: Article
Abstract
The American death penalty is often described as anomalous, distinctive, or exceptional in the sense that at present, in the early years of the twenty-first century, the United States is the sole Western democracy that retains the practice of capital punishment. However, a second aspect of American exceptionalism in this context has largely escaped notice. The United States has chosen not merely to retain the death penalty while its peer nations have abolished it; rather, the United States has embarked on nearly 40 years (since 1976) of intensive, top-down, constitutional regulation of the practice by the federal courts, led by the U.S. Supreme Court. The choice of regulation in the place of mere retention has produced a complex web of interactions among the federal judiciary and state and local legislatures, executive officials, courts, and of course activists on both sides of the issue and the general court of public opinion. Close study of these interactions generates a compelling and dynamic story that sheds a great deal of light on the death penalty itself—on its functions and meanings in American society and politics, on its history, and on its future.
Carol S. Steiker, Raising the Bar: Maples v. Thomas and the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel, 127 Harv. L. Rev. 468 (2013).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Legal Profession
,
Constitutional Law
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
,
Biography & Tribute
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker, Gideon at Fifty: A Problem of Political Will, 122 Yale L.J. 2694 (2013).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement
,
Legal Reform
Type: Article
Abstract
Although it is fitting to celebrate Gideon’s promise of representation for indigent criminal defendants at this landmark anniversary, it is important also to note that part of Gideon’s legacy should be our recognition of the limits of law in the fulfillment of that promise. Law’s most powerful role in the struggle to ensure adequate representation for the poor in criminal cases will be in its capacity to generate and direct the political will to produce institutional change. The critical question to ask is how law can help to move the political actors who control the power of the purse, the organization and administration of indigent defense services, and the shape of the substantive criminal law to allocate the resources and make the institutional changes that are necessary to fix what in many jurisdictions is a failing system of indigent defense. Although there is no silver bullet, there are a variety of complementary strategies that can and should be pursued. These strategies include working for legislative change to limit the scope of the substantive criminal law, promoting the success of structural reform litigation in both federal and state courts, enlisting the support of state bar overseers and associations as well as the ABA, enlisting the private defense bar and NGOs that specialize in criminal defense to set higher norms of practice, urging greater federal government involvement in promoting indigent defense reform in the states, promoting social entrepreneurship to generate creative solutions to the indigent defense crisis, and harnessing both the great power of the media to educate and motivate the public and the more targeted power of the legal academy to educate and motivate the next generation of lawyers to address this pressing problem.
Carol S. Steiker, Book Review: Capital Punishment and Contingency, 125 Harv. L. Rev. 760 (2012)(reviewing David Garland, Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition (2010)).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker, Book Review: Capital Punishment and Contingency, 125 Harv. L. Rev. 760 (2012)(reviewing David Garland, Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition (2010)).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
Type: Article
Sanford H. Kadish, Stephen Schulhofer, Carol S. Steiker & Rachel E. Barkow, Criminal Law and Its Processes: Cases and Materials (Aspen 9th ed. 2012).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Sentencing & Punishment
,
Criminal Defense
,
Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement
,
Criminal Prosecution
,
Legal Education
Type: Book
Abstract
The authors present a cohesive intellectual framework that views the law as an instrument of social control, providing an analytical tool with which students can interpret and understand doctrine. This work focuses on developing an understanding of principles and rules applicable to all crimes, rather than the detailed and disjointed elements of any particular crime. Cases-and-notes pedagogy, with excerpted materials, questions, and problems, illuminate the material. Problems enhance students’ understanding of the basic principles by testing their applications and interactions in the context of particular offenses.
The Political Heart of Criminal Procedure: Essays on Themes of William J. Stuntz (Michael J. Klarman, David Skeel & Carol Steiker eds., Cambridge Univ. Press 2012).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement
Type: Book
Carol S. Steiker, The Last Gasp: The Rise and Fall of the American Gas Chamber, 98 J. Am. Hist. 890 (2011).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker & Jordan M. Steiker, No More Tinkering: The American Law Institute and the Death Penalty Provisions of the Model Penal Code, 89 Tex. L. Rev. 353 (2010).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
,
Sentencing & Punishment
Type: Article
Abstract
This Special Feature contains the full text of the report we wrote for the American Law Institute that provided the scholarly background for the ALI’s eventual withdrawal of the death penalty provisions of the Model Penal Code. The report is exactly as it was submitted to the ALI, and it is preceded by an introduction providing some historical context regarding the ALI’s involvement with the death penalty and describing the report’s production and aftermath.
Carol S. Steiker & Jordan M. Steiker, Part II: Report to the ALI Concerning Capital Punishment, 89 Tex. L. Rev. 367 (2010).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
,
Sentencing & Punishment
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker & Jordan M. Steiker, Capital Punishment: A Century of Discontinuous Debate 100 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 643 (2010).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
,
Sentencing & Punishment
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker, Brandeis in Olmstead: "Our Government is the Potent, the Omnipresent Teacher", 79 Miss. L.J. 149 (2009).
Categories:
Government & Politics
,
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Constitutional Law
Sub-Categories:
Fourth Amendment
,
Criminal Defense
,
Criminal Prosecution
,
Criminal Evidence
,
Supreme Court of the United States
,
Judges & Jurisprudence
Type: Article
Abstract
This article discusses Justice Louis Brandeis's dissent in ♦Olmstead v. United States♦ from the Taft Court's decision to exempt government wiretapping from constitutional regulation. This is generally considered to be one of the great dissents for two reasons: (1) —its vindication on the issue of the constitutional status of wiretapping by the Warren Court in the famous Katz decision, and (2) its grounding of Fourth Amendment guarantees as rights of “privacy.” However, Professor Steiker argues that this dissent has an even stronger claim of greatness: Justice Brandeis's at once lyrical and indignant call for the repudiation of government lawbreaking in the pursuit of its own law enforcement goals, as such lawbreaking teaches contempt for the law.
Carol S. Steiker, The Marshall Hypothesis Revisited, 52 How. L.J. 525 (2009).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
,
Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement
,
Criminal Prosecution
,
Sentencing & Punishment
,
Criminal Defense
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker & Jordan M. Steiker, Opening a Window or Building a Wall? The Effect of Death Penalty Law and Advocacy on Criminal Justice More Broadly, 11 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 155 (2008).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Constitutional Law
Sub-Categories:
Eighth Amendment
,
Capital Punishment
,
Sentencing & Punishment
,
Criminal Defense
,
Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement
,
Criminal Prosecution
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker, Promoting Criminal Justice Reform Through Legal Scholarship: Toward a Taxonomy, 12 Berkeley J. Crim. L. 161 (2007).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Legal Profession
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Law & Social Change
,
Legal Scholarship
,
Legal Education
Type: Article
Carol S. Steiker, Tempering or Tampering? Mercy and the Administration of Criminal Justice, in Forgiveness, Mercy and Clemency (Austin Sarat & Nasser Hussain eds., Stanford Univ. Press 2007).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement
,
Sentencing & Punishment
Type: Book
Carol S. Steiker & Jordan Steiker, A Tale of Two Nations: Implementation of the Death Penalty in "Executing" Versus "Symbolic" States in the United States, 84 Tex. L. Rev. 1869 (2006).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
Type: Article
Abstract
This article describes the three types of death penalty jurisdictions in the United States: states without the death penalty by law ("abolitionist states"), states with the death penalty but insignificant numbers of executions ("symbolic states") and states with both the death penalty in law and practice - states actively carrying out executions ("executing states"), focusing on death penalty implementation distinctions between the latter two types of jurisdictions.
Criminal Procedure Stories: An In-Depth Look at Leading Criminal Procedure Cases (Carol S. Steiker ed., Foundation Press 2006).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Type: Book
Abstract
Unlike casebooks, this title goes with greater detail into the human stories and the social, political, and legal contexts of the "big" Supreme Court cases regarding criminal justice. It unearths details not available anywhere else. In addition to great narrative enrichment, it provides the provocative thoughts of highly respected scholars who are each experts on the particular cases they address. This book will greatly enhance the teaching of both police practices (a/k/a "Cops and Robbers") and criminal adjudication (a/k/a "Bail to Jail") by providing both important context not available in any casebook and by offering the insights of some of the scholars who have thought the most deeply about these cases and issues.
Carol S. Steiker, No, Capital Punishment is Not Morally Required: Deterrence, Deontology, and the Death Penalty, 58 Stan. L. Rev. 751 (2005).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
,
Sentencing & Punishment
,
Empirical Legal Studies
Type: Article
Abstract
Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule argue that, if recent empirical studies finding that capital punishment has a substantial deterrent effect are valid, consequentialists and deontologists alike should conclude that capital punishment is not merely morally permissible but actually morally required. While the empirical studies are highly suspect (as John Donohue and Justin Wolfers elaborate in a separate article in this Issue), this Article directly critiques Sunstein and Vermeule's moral argument. Acknowledging that the government has special moral duties does not render inadequately deterred private murders the moral equivalent of government executions. Rather, executions constitute a distinctive moral wrong (purposeful as opposed to nonpurposeful killing) and a distinctive kind of injustice (unjustified punishment). Moreover, acceptance of "threshold" deontology in no way requires a commitment to capital punishment even if substantial deterrence is proven. Rather, arguments about catastrophic "thresholds" face special challenges in the context of criminal punishment. This Article also explains how Sunstein and Vermeule's argument necessarily commits us to accepting other brutal or disproportionate punishments and concludes by suggesting that even consequentialists should not be convinced by the argument...
Carol S. Steiker & Jordan M. Steiker, The Seduction of Innocence: The Attraction and Limitations of the Focus on Innocence in Capital Punishment Law and Advocacy, 95 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 587 (2005).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
Type: Article
Abstract
This article articulates the authors' concerns with the focus on innocence in death penalty cases, which derive from a perspective sympathetic to reform or abolition of the death penalty.
Carol S. Steiker, Capital Punishment and American Exceptionalism, in American Exceptionalism and Human Rights (Michael Ignatieff ed., Princeton Univ. Press 2005).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Capital Punishment
Type: Book
Carol S. Steiker, Choosing Our Heroes: Skelly Wright and Atticus Finch 61 Loy. L. Rev. 125 (2015).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Judges & Jurisprudence
,
Biography & Tribute
Type: Article

Academic Appointment and Employment History

Board Memberships

Clerkships

Current Courses

Course Catalog View

Clinic Work

Professor Steiker is the Harvard faculty sponsor of the Capital Punishment clinic, through which students are placed in externships during the Winter Term and continue their clinical work remotely during the Spring Term.

Griswold 409

617-496-5457

Assistant: Maureen Worth / 617-496-2430