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Fall 2021 Course

Capital Punishment in America

Prerequisites: For JD students, Criminal Law is required. For LLM students, permission of the instructor is required to waive the requisite.

Exam Type: In Class

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 nearly five 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 intellectual disability 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.

Some seats are reserved for students enrolled in the Capital Punishment Clinic. Students who enroll in the Capital Punishment clinic will be enrolled in this course by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. If a student drops the Capital Punishment clinic, they will also lose their reserved seat in this course. Please see the clinic’s description for more information. There is an early drop deadline of August 27, 2021 for students enrolled in this course through the Capital Punishment clinic.