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Carol Steiker

  • 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.