Skip to content

People

Carol Steiker

  • Boston Marathon bombing victims split on death penalty in Supreme Court case

    October 13, 2021

    ...Yet they and others affected by the attack that killed three people and wounded 264 more disagree about whether convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be executed - a question the U.S. Supreme Court will consider on Wednesday when the justices hear the U.S. government's bid to reinstate his death sentence. ...Politically, Harvard Law Professor Carol Steiker says, "the position that Joe Biden took on the death penalty is not a super popular one."

  • Supreme Court of the United States at night

    Pay no attention to the justices behind the curtain

    September 23, 2021

    Charles Fried, Richard Lazarus ’79, Tejinder Singh ’08, and Carol Steiker ’86 discuss the Supreme Court’s increasingly important emergency powers known as its “shadow docket.”

  • California Committee on Revision of Penal Code Recommends Repeal of Death Penalty

    June 2, 2021

    A committee created by the California state legislature to study the state’s penal code and propose improvements in the law has recommended that California repeal its death penalty and expeditiously reduce the size of its death row. At the conclusion of a virtual meeting on May 14, 2021, the California Committee on Revision of the Penal Code (CRPC) unanimously voted to recommend that the state abolish the death penalty. It was the first ever policy vote on the death penalty by the Committee, which was established by an act of the state legislature in 2019...In March 2021 the Committee heard presentations from death-penalty scholars Carol Steiker and Jordan Steiker, siblings who respectively teach at Harvard Law School and University of Texas at Austin School of Law, Elisabeth Semel, the director of UC Berkeley’s Death Penalty Clinic, and UCLA Law professor Sherod Thaxton, among others, on constitutional issues and issues of innocence, costs, racial and geographic bias, and mental health related to capital punishment. It also received submissions from the California District Attorneys Association, the Prosecutors Alliance of California, the California Innocence Coalition, and the Office of the State Public Defender.

  • 4-up Zoom screen image with one women talking, two women and one many listening

    Harvard Law professors discuss the Derek Chauvin trial, its implications, and potential paths forward

    April 22, 2021

    A panel of Harvard Law professors discussed the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, which proved an occasion for cautious optimism, a bit of anxiety, and questions about what comes next.

  • Supreme Court to consider reinstating Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence

    March 24, 2021

    The US Supreme Court said Monday it will consider restoring the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, granting a petition by the Trump administration and creating a dilemma for President Biden, who has pledged to seek an end to federal executions. The high court’s decision to review the case, likely in the fall, evoked painful memories of the deadly terrorist attack and renewed the wrenching debate over whether Tsarnaev should be put to death...In taking up the case, the Supreme Court could affirm the appellate court ruling, which ordered a new trial to determine whether Tsarnaev, 27, will be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison, or reinstate the original death sentence. “The judges always have the same two options: affirm or reverse,” Carol S. Steiker, a Harvard Law professor who co-directs the law school’s Criminal Justice Policy Program, wrote in an e-mail. “They could affirm the Court of Appeals, in which case the order for a new sentencing trial would stand. Or they could reverse, in which case, Tsarnaev’s death sentence would remain undisturbed.” Steiker, the co-author of “Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment,” said federal prosecutors could abandon the Trump administration request and concede in court papers that the Appeals Court ruling was correct. Biden could also commute Tsarnaev’s death sentence, which would render any ruling by the Supreme Court moot.

  • Molly Brady wearing a bright red jacket sits in front of a computer and teaches her class in Zoom

    2020 in pictures

    January 5, 2021

    A look back at the year at HLS.

  • Hard lessons from a tough election

    November 6, 2020

    It was a presidential election befitting the past four years, unprecedented and contentious...The Gazette asked scholars and analysts across the University to reflect on lessons learned in a variety of areas...Tomiko Brown-Nagin: “This election crystalized American promise and American peril. Fifty-five years after passage of the Voting Rights Act and 100 years after ratification of the 19th Amendment, the fundamental right to vote — the essence of a democracy —remains ferociously contested and deeply cherished. Turnout was extraordinary! An estimated 67 percent of eligible voters cast ballots — almost 160 million people — the greatest number in more than 100 years...At the same time, we witnessed a concerted effort to suppress the vote, to intimidate voters, and to delegitimize legally cast votes.” ... Sandy Levinson: “What we learned was that the uncertainty of this election is entirely a function of the crazy way that Americans elect their president, which is through the Electoral College. This means, for example, that [President] Trump gets nine electoral votes for carrying the two Dakotas plus Wyoming, which collectively have only about 200,000 more residents than New Mexico, which contributed only five votes. What remains an ‘interesting’ question, if one is an academic, is why Americans persist with such a truly dysfunctional system of presidential election.” ... Carol Steiker: “What I have learned in this election is that despite, or perhaps because of, the anger and divisiveness that have marked this political season, it is possible to substantially shift the needle on popular political engagement. We are seeing levels of voter turnout in this election not seen in more than a century, since William Howard Taft defeated William Jennings Bryan in 1908.” ... Kenneth Mack: “What I have learned from this election so far is both a lot and a little. Historians typically look at elections as vehicles for possible political, economic, or social change. Certainly in the run-up to this year’s election we’ve seen some things change significantly. We have the first woman of color on a major party ticket (who now seems poised to become vice president), Black candidates seeming to run competitively statewide in several Southern states, and efforts to suppress minority voting of a kind we haven’t seen in decades.” ... Yochai Benkler: “ The right-wing propaganda feedback loop, anchored in Fox News and talk radio and supported by online media, has played two critical roles in the election. The first, and most foundational, is that throughout the presidency of Donald Trump it offered an alternative reality, in which the president was a strong, effective leader hounded by an alliance of Democrats who hate America and Deep State operatives bent on reversing the victory of Trump, the authentic voice of the people.”

  • Illustration of abstract gender neutral colorful human profiles.

    Sharing stress strategies

    October 14, 2020

    For ABA Mental Health Day, five faculty share struggles from their own law school days and offer options for coping and support.

  • What would a new Tsarnaev trial look like, five years later?

    August 5, 2020

    For three long months in 2015, victims and their families were forced to endure the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an emotionally devastating proceeding that concluded with an unremorseful Tsarnaev being sentenced to death for his role in a plot that left three dead and wounded hundreds. Now, they might have to do it all over again. From the moment last week that a federal appeals court vacated Tsarnaev’s death penalty sentence, citing issues with jury selection in the case, the prospect of enduring a second trial has hung over a city that had hoped to put this brutal episode behind it...Even as the death penalty has recently fallen out of favor with Americans, the Trump administration has made no secret of its support for capital punishment. After nearly two decades without a federal execution, Attorney General William Barr has ordered three executions to be carried out in the last month alone. And already, Trump has made it clear what he expects from the Tsarnaev case moving forward. “Death penalty!” he said on Twitter over the weekend, in response to news of the appellate ruling. “He killed and badly wounded many. Justice!” “This administration clearly has very much an agenda around capital punishment,” said Carol Steiker, a law professor at Harvard Law School. “They have made capital punishment an issue in an election year because they’re playing by the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s playbook — the tough-on-crime playbook that brought Richard Nixon into office.” “It’s just hard not to see that as political,” she added. “And if that’s right, you would expect them to really pound on the table with this one, because of all the emotion that’s raised by the heinousness of this crime.”

  • book cover

    Faculty Books in Brief: Summer 2020

    July 23, 2020

    From human rights in a time of populism to a comparative look at capital punishment to a focus on disability, healthcare and bioethics

  • Carol Steiker and Cornell William Brooks sit in front of movie theater screen reading Just Mercy

    ‘Just Mercy’ in the criminal justice system

    February 20, 2020

    “Just Mercy,” the film based on the memoir by Bryan Stevenson ’85, ends with a sobering statistic: For every nine people executed in the U.S., one on death row is exonerated. As Professor Carol Steiker noted in a discussion following a screening of the film, that makes the U.S. No. 1 in a problematic category.

  • On the Bookshelf: HLS Library Book Talks, Spring 2018 2

    On the Bookshelf: HLS Authors

    December 11, 2019

    This fall, the Harvard Law School Library hosted a series of book talks by Harvard Law School authors on topics ranging from forgiveness in law, transparency in health and fidelity in constitutional practice.

  • Forgiveness in an age of ‘justified resentments’

    November 8, 2019

    Dehlia Umunna remembered seeing the fear. “His eyes were dark,” Umunna recalled. “And he was close to tears. And he looked at me and said, ‘Will I be going to jail and will I be going to jail for a very long time?’” “He was shaking,” she said. “I looked over at his mom and his mom was shaking. She was nervous. She was holding the hands of her 13-year-old boy.” Umunna, a clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School and deputy director of the Criminal Justice Institute, subsequently learned that the boy, who suffered from bipolar disorder and ADHD, had been surreptitiously videotaped playing video games in his living room wearing only his underwear. By the time he arrived at school the next day, the video had been posted online, where it had been seen by 300 of his peers, who proceeded to tease him. Frustrated and angry, he was heard to say, “I understand why the Parkland shooter did what he did.” ...“And as I looked over the case, I said to myself, this is exactly what [Prof.] Martha [Minow]’s book talks about,” she recalled. “This is a prime example of where we should nudge the courts and the decision-makers to exercise forgiveness.”...Umunna’s comments came during a panel discussion of “When Should Law Forgive?”, a new book by Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor and former dean of HLS. The book explores the complicated intersection of the law, justice, and forgiveness, asking whether the law should encourage people to forgive, and when courts, public officials, and specific laws should forgive. In addition to Umunna and Minow, panelists included Carol Steiker ’86, the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and co-director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program; Toby Merrill ’11, an HLS lecturer on law and director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending; and Homi K. Bhabha

  • Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor

    Forgiveness in an age of ‘justified resentments’

    November 6, 2019

    At a recent Harvard Law School Library book event, Martha Minow and panelists discussed her recent release, "When Should Law Forgive?", which explores the complicated intersection of the law, justice, and forgiveness.

  • Death Penalty Dust-Ups at the High Court

    April 15, 2019

    Dahlia Lithwick is joined by Harvard Law School professor Carol Steiker, co-author of Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment, to explore recent death penalty cases before the Supreme Court and why the Eighth Amendment has raised tensions among the justices.

  • Democrats Rethink the Death Penalty, and Its Politics

    April 8, 2019

    By signing an executive order, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California recently ended the threat of execution as long as he is in office for the 737 inmates on the state’s death row, the largest in the Western Hemisphere. ... One study has shown that capital punishment has cost California $5 billion since the 1970s. Another study, by Ernest Goss, an economics professor at Creighton University, found that each death penalty prosecution in Nebraska cost $1.5 million more than when prosecutors sought life without parole. Those more complex realities do not negate the potential for contentious politics in 2020. “I think the Democratic primaries may be the first one in which candidates outflank one another on the left on criminal justice issues,” said Carol S. Steiker, an expert on the death penalty at Harvard Law School.

  • Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

    March 15, 2019

    An article by Carol S. Steiker and Jordan M. Steiker: ... On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though it’s not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject failure” in its discriminatory, ineffective, and inaccurate application. He also declared that the death penalty itself is an immoral practice. Is this latest development in California, like the California Supreme Court’s decision in 1972, just a small roadblock to the continued use of capital punishment? Or is it a harbinger of further decline and perhaps even abolition of the American death penalty? We think the latter.

  • “To Me, This Is The Right Thing To Do”: California Governor Halts State’s Executions

    March 14, 2019

    California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued a moratorium on executions in the state — granting at least a temporary reprieve for its 737 death row inmates. That represents one quarter of the people on death row in the nation. At a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Newsom talked about wrongful convictions, the $5 billion that the state has spent on the death penalty since 1978, and the racial disparities in sentencing. ... Marisa Lagos, political reporter for KQED and co-host of the podcast Political Breakdown, and Carol Steiker, a professor at Harvard Law School and co-author of “Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment,” break down the announcement.

  • Matters of life or death 1

    Matters of life or death

    September 12, 2018

    Led by Carol Steiker, the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and faculty co-director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program, the Capital Punishment Clinic at Harvard Law School tests the complex body of constitutional law that regulates the death penalty and its troubled history.

  • Matters of life or death

    September 6, 2018

    It was a chilly afternoon outside the Allan B. Polunsky Unit, a maximum-security prison for death-row inmates in Livingston, Texas. Inside, the mood was somber. An execution was scheduled for later that day, and a sense of foreboding filled the air. Law School student Jake Meiseles, J.D. ’19, was talking to his client by phone through a thick glass window when he saw the condemned man walking behind the cubicle, followed by corrections officers. The man smiled and nodded at Meiseles, who did the same. The brief human exchange left Meiseles distraught. “It was sad and upsetting,” said Meiseles, who was there as an intern with the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs in Austin, Texas. “But it kind of put into perspective the work we’re doing...Led by Carol Steiker, the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and faculty co-director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program, the clinic tests the complex body of constitutional law that regulates the death penalty and its troubled history...“The death penalty is a window into American history and the criminal justice system,” said Steiker, who was drawn to capital cases when clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall...For Milo Inglehart, J.D. ’19, an internship with the Federal Community Defender Office in Philadelphia left him righteously indignant at how the death penalty is applied, comparing it to a legacy of lynching.

  • The Pope Changed the Catholic Church’s Position on the Death Penalty. Will the Supreme Court Follow?

    August 8, 2018

    An op-ed by Carol S. Steiker and Jordan M. Steiker. When Pope Francis changed the Catholic Church’s position on the death penalty from permitting it in very rare circumstances to now deeming it completely “inadmissible” and violative of the “dignity of the person,” it reflected and reinforced a stunning decline of capital punishment worldwide in recent decades. In 1970, fewer than 20 nations were fully abolitionist. Today, more than two-thirds of the world’s roughly 200 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. As a practical matter, executions are confined to a handful of nations. Five countries — China, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan — carried out well over 90% of last year’s executions. The Pope’s emphasis on human dignity underscores the predominant rationale for jettisoning the death penalty: the growing consensus that state killing runs afoul of basic respect for human rights. But the utility of this premise is somewhat limited in the nations that still practice capital punishment, including the United States.

  • 2018 last lecturers

    Faculty have the ‘last’ word

    August 7, 2018

    This spring, Professors Jody Freeman, Alex Whiting, Carol Steiker and Paul Butler each shared personal stories and experiences with a group of soon-to-be graduates poised to enter the new phase of Life After HLS as part of the Last Lecture Series, an event sponsored annually by the 3L and LL.M. Class Marshals.

  • Justice Kennedy: He swung left on the death penalty but declined to swing for the fences

    July 2, 2018

    An op-ed by Carol Steiker and Jordan Steiker. As in many other areas of the law, Justice Anthony Kennedy often provided the key fifth vote in death penalty cases during his three decades on the Supreme Court. Swinging to the right, Kennedy was a frequent supporter of restrictions on the availability of federal habeas review of capital cases, a skeptic of claims challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection and a relatively reliable vote against granting stays of execution in end-stage capital litigation. Kennedy will likely be remembered more, however, for his swings to the left, because he was the author of numerous opinions that broke new ground in the court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. Most importantly, he was the primary architect of the court’s proportionality doctrine that led to exemptions from the death penalty for offenders with intellectual disability, juvenile offenders and nonhomicide offenders.

  • Auto Draft 32

    Steiker receives 2018 Sacks-Freund Award (video)

    May 25, 2018

    The Harvard Law School Class of 2018 selected Carol Steiker ’86 for the prestigious Albert M. Sacks-Paul A. Freund Award for Teaching Excellence.

  • Carol Steiker: 'Choosing wisely is more important -- and less important -- than you might think it is'

    Carol Steiker: ‘Choosing wisely is more important — and less important — than you might think it is’

    May 17, 2018

    Carol Steiker '86 began her Last Lecture to the class of 2018 by sharing the questions she is frequently asked by students--what electives and classes to take, what summer job they should seek--and the advice she gives them: “It doesn’t matter that much.”

  • HLS200 finale celebrates clinics

    HLS 200 finale celebrates clinics

    May 2, 2018

    On April 20, HLS in the Community wrapped up a year-long celebration of Harvard Law School's bicentennial by highlighting the contributions made by HLS clinics and students practice organizations (SPOs).

  • Scavenger hunt 1

    Public interest scavenger hunt raises money and highlights alumni work

    April 11, 2018

    Now in its second year, the Harvard Law School Public Interest Scavenger Hunt continued its focus on HLS history and trivia, but also highlighted alumni who have done important public interest work.

  • The Trump Administration’s Death Penalty Daydream

    March 30, 2018

    In a speech Monday in Manchester, New Hampshire, President Donald Trump enthusiastically backed capital punishment as a tool to fight the opioid epidemic. “If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time,” he said. “And that toughness includes the death penalty.” Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is trying to put Trump’s call into practice. In one-page memo dated Tuesday, Sessions instructed U.S. attorneys nationwide to be more aggressive when prosecuting any drug-related crimes...”It’s unclear how much of this is a symbolic gesture or how much it will yield an infusion of resources and actual prosecutions,” Carol Steiker, a Harvard University law professor, told me. Death-penalty cases are arduous for prosecutors and defense attorneys alike. The prosecutions pass through far more procedural hurdles than other criminal cases, and if the jury hands down a death sentence, both sides immediately enter a lengthy appeals process.

  • The need to talk about race

    The need to talk about race

    December 15, 2017

    Bryan Stevenson has battled through the courts, defending the wrongly convicted and children prosecuted as adults, while condemning mass incarceration and racial bias in the criminal justice system; now, he is embarking on a fight to start a national conversation about the painful legacy of slavery, which he says “continues to haunt us today.”

  • Bryan Stevenson on the Shadow of White Supremacy

    December 14, 2017

    The audience could sense where the story was going almost as soon as Bryan Stevenson began telling it. Two black children in the barely desegregated South, hurtling with giddy, unguarded elation toward their first swim in a pool that until recently had been available only to whites... Nancy Gertner, a retired U.S. judge and senior lecturer at Harvard Law School, deplored the mandatory sentencing rules that reduce defendants to “the quantity of drugs, their criminal record, and nothing else.” ... Friendly professor of law Carol Steiker looked back at the past few hundred years of American death penalty laws.

  • The need to talk about race

    December 11, 2017

    For the past 30 years, lawyer and social activist Bryan Stevenson ’85 has battled through the courts, defending wrongly convicted death-row prisoners and children prosecuted as adults, while condemning mass incarceration, excessive sentences, and racial bias in the criminal justice system...Delivering the 2017 Tanner Lecture on Human Values on Wednesday, Stevenson announced a planned memorial to honor more than 4,000 victims of lynching in the U.S. and a museum that traces the country’s history of racial inequality from enslavement to mass incarceration...Afterward, Homi K. Bhabha, director of the Humanities Center, led a panel discussion on the issues of mass incarceration, racial injustice, and the death penalty. Among the panelists were Nancy Gertner, senior lecturer on law at the Law School and a retired U.S. district judge; Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor in the Department of African and African American Studies and the Department of Philosophy, and Carol S. Steiker, Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law at the Law School. Reflecting on her years on the bench, Gertner criticized mandatory minimum sentencing, a legal trend that was a product of the war on drugs that led to the surge in the number of African-Americans in the federal prison population...Steiker spoke about the history of the death penalty in the United States and talked about its racial basis. The United States is the only Western democracy that uses capital punishment, she said, and is a leader internationally in doing so.

  • Mentors, Friends and Sometime Adversaries 4

    Mentors, Friends and Sometime Adversaries

    November 29, 2017

    Mentorships between Harvard Law School professors and the students who followed them into academia have taken many forms over the course of two centuries.

  • Charles Ogletree and family in audience

    ‘Tree’s’ tremendous legacy: Celebrating Charles Ogletree ’78

    October 11, 2017

    It took an all-star team of panelists to honor the scope and influence of Charles Ogletree’s career last week at HLS—eminent friends, students and colleagues all paying tribute to a man that the world knows as a leading force for racial equality and social justice, and that the Harvard community knows affectionately as Tree.

  • Honoring Charles Ogletree

    Honoring Charles Ogletree

    October 11, 2017

    Hundreds of friends, former students, colleagues, and well-wishers gathered last Monday in a joyful celebration of the life and career of Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, advocate for Civil Rights, author of books on race and justice, and mentor to former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

  • Thurgood Marshall: The soundtrack of their lives

    October 2, 2017

    Thurgood Marshall is revered as a titan of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the architect of the landmark court case that ended legal segregation in America’s public schools, and the first African-American Supreme Court justice. Yet for five of his former law clerks gathered Wednesday at Harvard Law School (HLS), he was more than that. For Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Marshall was a messenger of hope and courage to African-Americans who endured the injustices of the Jim Crow South...For Randall Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor of Law, who clerked for Marshall in the ’80s, the associate justice was a source of pride, lifting the spirits and the consciousness of black Americans who were treated as second-class citizens...For Martha Minow, former dean of Harvard Law School, Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence, and University Distinguished Service Professor, who also clerked for Marshall, he was the embodiment of a deep commitment to social justice and faith in the power of the rule of law to bring equal rights to all eventually...The panel was moderated by Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law, director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, and professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Kenneth Mack, the Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law...“He was a formidable person in all respects,” recalled another former clerk, William Fisher, WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property Law and faculty director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society...Carol Steiker, Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and Special Adviser for Public Service, said she developed a lifelong interest in death penalty law during her clerkship with Marshall.

  • Thurgood Marshall panelists

    Thurgood Marshall: The soundtrack of their lives

    September 29, 2017

    Thurgood Marshall is revered as a titan of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the architect of the landmark court case that ended legal segregation in America’s public schools, and the first African-American Supreme Court justice. Yet for five of his former law clerks gathered Wednesday at Harvard Law School, he was more than that.

  • Death-penalty symposium: Incremental victories for capital defendants but no sweeping change

    June 29, 2017

    An op-ed by Carol Steiker and Jordan Steiker. Two terms ago in Glossip v. Gross, Justice Stephen Breyer, dissenting from the Supreme Court’s rejection of a lethal-injection challenge, set forth a comprehensive case against the American death penalty, calling for the court to revisit the question of its basic constitutionality. Over the past 40 years, several justices have questioned the constitutional viability of the death penalty, but Breyer’s dissent seemed more significant because it came at a time when the death penalty appeared newly vulnerable.

  • Connecting beyond the classroom

    April 21, 2017

    More than 60 Harvard Law students and 27 HLS faculty members took over the typically quiet tables of the library reading room for the first “Notes and Comment” event.

  • 2017 Cravath Fellows

    Cravath International Fellows explore law abroad

    April 5, 2017

    Harvard Law Today recently spoke with three of the 11 Harvard Law School students who were selected as Cravath International Fellows this year, who traveled during winter term to Bogotá, Colombia, Paris, France and Singapore to pursue clinical placements and independent research.

  • Missouri’s Unjust Rush To Execute Intellectually Disabled Man Who Was Abandoned by His Attorneys

    January 31, 2017

    An op-ed by Carol Steiker. Death is the ultimate punishment a state can impose. Because of the death penalty’s severity and finality, its implementation should never be rushed or done without full due process of the law. Yet Missouri will do exactly that if it proceeds with the execution of Mark Christeson on January 31. Intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court is now needed to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice. The federal courts have truncated due process by ordering unreasonably expedited briefing and hearing schedules, solely for the purpose of maintaining an execution date that was set at the State’s request while appeals were already pending. No court has ever fully considered the merits of Mr. Christeson’s important underlying constitutional claims, and no court has ever provided him with counsel free of conflicts of interest to raise those claims.

  • Harvard Law School: 2016 in review

    December 22, 2016

    A look back at 2016, highlights of the people who visited, events that took place and everyday life at Harvard Law School.

  • Death (Penalty) Be Not Proud

    December 21, 2016

    In the last twenty years, capital punishment has fallen out of favor in the United States. Death sentences have dropped from 315 a year in the mid-1990s to 49 in 2015. Executions have declined from 98 in 1999 to 28 in 2015. The number of states with the death penalty has fallen to 31. And polls indicate that opposition to capital punishment (fueled in part by DNA evidence of wrongful convictions, a dramatic drop in crime rates, and the isolation of the United States among western democracies in retaining the death penalty) is rising. Carol Steiker (a professor of law at Harvard University) and Jordan Steiker (a professor of law at the University of Texas) believe that the death penalty deserves to die. In Courting Death, the authors trace the judicial history of capital punishment, starting with the Supreme Court’s declaration that the death penalty is capricious and arbitrary in Furman v. Georgia in 1972, and its decision to lift its de facto moratorium four years later in Gregg v. Georgia. And the Steikers deliver an extraordinarily well-documented, forceful and ferocious assault on state and federal administration of capital punishment since then. Courting Death is, almost certainly, the best book on this subject.

  • Rein in Texas on executing the intellectually disabled

    November 28, 2016

    An op-ed by Carol Steiker and Jordan Steiker. Even as the United States remains the only Western democracy that executes its citizens, the Supreme Court has exempted certain categories of our most vulnerable individuals from execution, including those with intellectual disability. Texas, however, routinely fails to enforce this protection. An upcoming case gives the court the opportunity to bring Texas in line with constitutional requirements.

  • The more we confront the death penalty, the less we like it

    November 23, 2016

    An op-ed by Carol Steiker and Jordan Steiker. California’s decision on Nov. 8 to reject Proposition 62 came as no surprise to those of us who study capital punishment. No jurisdiction in human history has ever permanently abolished the death penalty via plebiscite. The reason is simple: referenda ask voters to respond at the level of symbolism, and voters rarely resist abstract appeals to “law and order.” If citizens confront the death penalty in concrete context, however, they’re willing to end it.

  • Regulated to Death

    November 22, 2016

    In their latest collaboration, Professor Carol Steiker ’86 and her brother, Jordan Steiker ’88, a law professor at the University of Texas, have co-written a new book, “Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment,” in which they argue that the Court has failed in its efforts to regulate the death penalty since Gregg v. Georgia, its 1976 decision that allowed capital punishment to resume.

  • Fair Punishment Project’s new Legal Advisory Council issues brief on sentences for juveniles

    November 21, 2016

    The HLS Fair Punishment Project’s Legal Advisory Council has issued an issue brief arguing that a sentencer may impose a life without parole sentence upon a juvenile only after concluding that the child is “the rare juvenile offender who exhibits such irretrievable depravity that rehabilitation is impossible.”

  • Death has less dominion

    November 18, 2016

    Few people have had a more tumultuous 18 months than Nebraska’s ten death-row inmates. In May 2015 the Nebraska legislature voted to abolish capital punishment, which would have converted their sentences to life imprisonment. The governor, Pete Ricketts, vetoed the legislation but was overridden. He then poured $400,000 of his family’s money into financing a referendum to reinstate the death penalty, which appeared on the ballot on November 8th and passed with 61% of Nebraskans’ support. The proposition was one of three pro-death-penalty measures on state ballots. Two passed with ample margins, and prospects for the third look promising...Carol Steiker, a professor at Harvard Law School and co-author of a new book entitled “Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment”, says people rarely take the time to understand ballot initiatives (one voter in Palo Alto says it took him hours to educate himself about the 17 measures on California’s ballot). A better bellwether of what will happen to the death penalty, Ms Steiker says, is sentencing. In 1996, 315 convicts were given death sentences. In 2015 only 49 were. This suggests that prosecutors, jurors and judges have all grown warier of capital punishment.