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Criminal Justice Resources :

Death Penalty

In the U.S., according to David Elliot of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, "since 1976, 767 people have been put to death ... .And with 100 exonerations of death-row inmates in the past 25 years, he says he can only conclude that innocents have been executed. Indeed, polls do suggest public attitudes are influenced by these exonerations--particularly since DNA testing became a tool to prove innocence, or guilt, conclusively. Though a majority of Americans still support the death penalty in murder cases, the Gallup Poll shows that support dropped from an all-time high of 80 percent in 1994 to 67 percent in 2001." Source: "US Milestone: 100th Death-Row Inmate Exonerated", The Christian Science Monitor v.94 no.97 (12 Apr 2002): p.1-2

1000+ Death Penalty Links
Clark County Prosecuting Attorney
Over 3,000 death penalty links, separated into 38 different categories, including 150+ Pro-Death Penalty Links. Also includes Wrongful Convictions and DNA, Religion, Obama/McCain, Deterrence, History, Methods, and Death Penalty Humor. (Every link updated 05-01-08) Also: Detailed listing of all executions in the U.S. since 1976, with method and state of execution, age, murder/sentencing/execution dates, names of victims, news accounts, court opinions. Compiled by Steve Stewart, Prosecuting Attorney, Clark County, Indiana
(Last checked 11/11/09)

About.Com Death Penalty Resources
A view of the issues surrounding the death penalty, death row inmates, methods of execution, and controversial issues relating to race and juvenile offenders.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

American Bar Association
Juvenile Death Penalty Press Release
(Last checked 11/11/09)

American Civil Liberties Union : Death Penalty
The Death Penalty section of the American Civil Liberties Union Website posts the latest news and information related to the abolition of the death penalty.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Amnesty International: the Death Penalty
Provides recent information on the death penalty, AI's book on the death penalty, and related web sites.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Angel on Death Row
A pro-con discussion of the death penalty sponsored by PBS's Frontline. Includes: (1) "Is the Death Penalty Unjust?" : Justices Harry A. Blackmun and Antonin Scallia give opposing opinions in a ruling on a Texas case.
(2) Legal Scholars Take Opposing Positions : The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense by Ernest van den Haag and Against the American System of Capital Punishment by Jack Greenberg (3) The Catholic Church's Position : While the vast majority of U.S. Catholics support capital punishment, the Church's has been officially opposed to the death penalty for more than two decades. Documents available include: U.S. Catholic Bishops' Statement on Capital Punishment; Pope John Paul II encyclical "Evangelium Vitae", 1995; and the American Bar Association's Call for Moratorium on Death Penalty, 1997
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Before the Needles:
The History of Executions in America Before Lethal Injection
Covers hanging, electric chair, gas chamber, firing squad, lynching, and other historic methods of capital punishment. "Detailed State by State listing of … executions that occurred under civil authority in the United States or within territory that later became the United States. From George Kendal being shot for espionage in Virginia (1608) until Gary Gilmore met his maker for murder in Utah (1977), it includes (when known) the convict's name, age, race, sex, occupation, crime, date of execution, method of execution and whether it was a single or multiple execution. "This page was developed from the data file "Executions in the United States, 1608-1987: The ESPY File", Espy, M. Watt, and John Ortiz Smykla, Principal Investigators. Funded by the National Science Foundation."
(Last checked 11/11/09)

A Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995
Get an in-depth look at the study that is helping to spur a re-examination of capital punishment in America. In 1991 the Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary asked Professor James Liebman of the Columbia University School of Law to calculate the frequency of relief in habeas corpus cases. In late 1995, the study was expanded from a single count of cases and their outcomes to a search for information that might help explain why relief is granted in so many capital cases. No such undertaking had ever before been attempted. The results are so startling, that The Justice Project is trying to make them as widely available as possible.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Can Violent Criminals Be Too Young To Execute?

SpeakOut.com overview by Silvio Carrillo, May 03, 2000. Still available thanks to the Internet Archive.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Capital Defense Weekly
This site provides national coverage of case law, legislative and political developments concerning death penalty litigation. The site is published by Karl Keys.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Capital Punishment Resources
The debate over the death penalty and capital punishment is in full effect. Those arguing for the death penalty claim that it acts as a deterrent, showing criminals what could happen if they continue on their same path. Others believe that it’s the perfect way to punish them for their crime by taking an eye for an eye mentality. The con side of the argument points out the number of convictions overturned and the inhumane treatment of the prisoners. It’s clear that the debate over capital punishment will continue long into the future. Courtesy of Consumer Injury Lawyers.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

The Case Against the Death Penalty
A presentation by Hugo Adam Bedau, Fletcher professor of Philosophy, Tufts University.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Catholics Against Capital Punishment (CACP)
A national advocacy organization working for the abolition of the death penalty in the U.S. Site includes CACP background, news, and links to related sites.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Deadly Decisions
How do jurors decide who should live and who should die? Alan Barlew, American RadioWorks® - the national documentary unit of Minnesota Public Radio, August 2002.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Deadly Questions
The Learning Network Inc. presents the full text of the article entitled "Deadly Questions," by David Johnson. The author discusses the debate concerning capital punishment in the United States. Johnson highlights research findings from a 23-year long study that shows that two-thirds of all capital punishment cases contained flaws. Johnson also details research related to DNA testing, public support of capital punishment, and U.S. Supreme Court rulings related to the death penalty.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Death Knell for the Death Penalty

With growing calls for a moratorium on capital punishment, some say its days are numbered. But death penalty supporters say no way. Article by Mark Hansen, ABA Journal Online, June 2000.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Death Penalty Anniversary Dates
Compiled by Amnesty International.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

The Death Penalty in Black and White: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides
Richard C. Dieter, Esq., Executive Director, Death Penalty Information Center, June 1998. (Also listed under Race)
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Death Penalty Information
The current implementation of the death penalty in the United States is making headlines. Michigan State University has assembled materials to help students explore, debate, and discuss this controversial important topic involving federal and state laws and personal values. The first URL includes the history of the death penalty, stages in a capital case, interactive US maps and state data and policies, arguments for and against the death penalty, and four actual courtroom cases, along with lesson plans for teachers. The second URL is the link to just the student material.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Death Penalty Information Center
The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a nonprofit organization operating out of Washington, DC, prepares analytical reports for the media, the public, and Congress on issues concerning capital punishment. Their fact-filled, frequently updated site supplies a wealth of full-text reports, briefs, and statistics examining all aspects of capital punishment. Topic sections analyze death penalty information in relation to public opinion, race, sex, age, mental competency, deterrence, innocence, and cost. A state by state listing clearly outlines and compares the legislation and the statistics for capital punishment nationally. A comprehensive list of links to other sources of information is also provided.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Death Penalty Issues
Numerous quotes and links from Truth in Justice.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Death Penalty Law
Courtesy of the Cornell Law School>
(Last checked 02/23/06)

Death Penalty News & Updates
Site provides information on recent executions and executions in the US by year and state. Also provides links to related sites. Compiled by Rick Halperin, Southern Methodist University.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Fear and Loathing in an Age of Show Business:
Reflections on Televised Executions
Article by Paul Leighton, Eastern Michigan University.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Federal Death Penalty Cases: Recommendations Concerning The Cost and Quality of Defense Representation
A report published by the Subcommittee on Federal Death Penalty Cases of the Judicial Conference Committee on Defender Services.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Federal Death Penalty System: A Statistical Survey, 1988-2000
First, in cases submitted by the United States Attorneys for departmental review, the proportions of Black and Hispanic defendants were greater than the proportions of Blacks and Hispanics in the general population. Of the 682 defendants reviewed under the Department's death penalty decision-making procedures in the period 1995 to 2000, 134 (20%) were White, 324 (48%) were Black, and 195 (29%) were Hispanic. September 12, 2000.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Federal Death Penalty System: Supplementary Data, Analysis and Revised Protocols for Capital Case Review (Dept. of Justice)
This report completes a survey and assessment of the federal death penalty system. At the direction of Attorney General Janet Reno, a study of decision-making processes and demographic factors in federal capital cases was carried out last year. June 2001.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Fight the Death Penalty in the U.S.
Danish site militantly opposed to US executions, as are most Europeans. Europe does not have a death penalty and they even abolished its use for war crimes, including genocide.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

History of the Death Penalty
Courtesy of the Death Penalty Information Center.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

History of the Death Penalty & Recent Developments
Courtesy of the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

How Does Death by Hanging Work?
Many people might be surprised to learn that hanging, when carried out with modern techniques, can be one of the quickest and most painless ways to be executed. Of course, not all hangings are designed to be quick and painless. Article by Julia Layton appearing in How Stuff Works.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

How Lethal Injection Works
ethal injection is not a light topic, but it's the subject of much debate. Find out about the various procedures. Article by Kevin Bonsor in How Stuff Works.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Illinois Death Penalty Education Project
Compilation of resources by the University of Chicago Law School MacArthur Justice Center.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Inherent Racism of the Death Penalty

Information from studies detailing the racial discrimination in capital punishment in the U.S. The site also provides information on the disparity in sentencing depending on the race of the victim. Includes a bibliography of studies on the relationship between race and the death penalty. Compiled by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, February 18, 1996.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

International Reaction to Death Penalty Practices in the United States
Execution of prisoners through governmental action violates a human right recognized throughout Europe. Countries cannot become members of either the Council of Europe or the European Union unless they agree to eliminate capital punishment. This standard is recognized as strengthening the rule of law and stabilizing contemporary democracies. Agents of governmental institutions should not have the power to kill prisoners, a tenet tacitly agreed to by the United States elsewhere, but not found relevant in domestic policies. Over half of the countries of the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Amnesty International states that about two countries a year are eliminating this penalty. It found in 1998 that the United States "has the highest known death-row population on earth." Dorean Marguerite Koenig, American Bar Association.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? : The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs
Support for capital punishment is, of course, usually associated with the political right. But the lead author of a new paper making what might be termed the "big government" case for the death penalty is the noted liberal scholar Cass Sunstein. The paper draws in part on a study conducted at Emory University, which found a direct association between the reauthorization of the death penalty, in 1977, and reduced homicide rates. The Emory researchers' "conservative estimate" was that on average, every execution deters eighteen murders. Sunstein and his co-author argue that this calculus makes the death penalty not just morally licit but morally required. A government that fails to make use of it, they write, is effectively condemning large numbers of its citizens to death—a sin of omission like failing to protect the environment or to provide adequate health care. "If each execution is saving many lives," they conclude, "the harms of capital punishment would have to be very great to justify its abolition, far greater than most critics have heretofore alleged." Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, AEI-Brookings. March 2005. Abstract taken from Atlantic Monthly, July/Aug. 2005
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Is the Death Penalty Cruel and Unusual?

SpeakOut.com overview by John Barry, May 03, 2000. Still available thanks to the Internet Archives.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Lost Lives : Miscarriages of Justice in Capital Cases
One of the longstanding complaints against the death penalty is that it "distort[s] the course of the criminal law."1 Capital prosecutions are expensive and complicated; they draw sensational attention from the press; they are litigated -- before, during, and after trial -- at greater length and depth than other felonies; they generate more intense emotions, for and against; they last longer and live in memory. There is no dispute about these effects, only about their significance. To opponents of the death penalty, they range from minor to severe faults; to proponents, from tolerable costs to major virtues. Until recently, however, the conviction of innocent defendants was not seen as a special hazard of capital punishment. Everybody agreed, of course, that condemning innocent defendants is a singular wrong, but it was not widely viewed as a major problem, and certainly not as a problem of special significance for capital cases. In the past decade, this complacent view has been shattered. In case after case, erroneous conviction for capital murder has been proven. I contend that these are not disconnected accidents, but systematic consequences of the nature of homicide prosecution in general and capital prosecution in particular -- that in this respect, as in others, death distorts and undermines the course of the law. Samuel R. Gross, 61 Law & Contemp. Probs. 125 (Autumn 1998). Still available thanks to the Internet Archive.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
NCADP provides information, advocates for ublic policy, and mobilizes and supports individuals and institutions that share our unconditional rejection of capital punishment.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

New Abolitionist
Newsletter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Pro-Death Penalty.com
Capital punishment is a topic that brings up deep emotional reactions for those on both sides of the issue and conflict for those who are undecided how they feel. If you search the internet via search engines for "death penalty", you are likely to find thousands, if not tens of thousands of "hits" to web sites related to the topic. With very few exceptions, these sites are anti-death penalty. Is this because the majority of people are against the death penalty? Not according to recent surveys. It is simply because people who are adamantly opposed to the death penalty tend to take an activist stance and become involved in working to stop the death penalty. For the most part, people who support the death penalty do so quietly, in their own minds and feel no need to do so in any public fashion. It is the law and they expect it to be carried out.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Punishment and the Death Penalty
MultiMedia Resources on Punishment and the Death Penalty
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Racial Discrimination in Implementing the Death Penalty
There is a long history of racial discrimination in the use of the death penalty in this country. Indeed, racial discrimination based on both the race of the defendant and the race of the victim was a principal reason why Justice Thurgood Marshall joined the Supreme Court majority that held in 1972 that the death penalty was unconstitutional. (Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 364-65 (1972) (Marshall, J., concurring).) Ronald J. Tabak, American Bar Association.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Review of Virginia's System of Capital Punishment
Text of the legislative study of capital punishment in Virginia, which found that where crimes are committed has more to do with whether defendants face the death penalty than the type of crime or the race of the perpetrator. Suburban prosecutors were more likely to seek the death penalty than were their urban or rural counterparts. From the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. Source: College of William and Mary New Government Publications December 2001.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

SpeakOut.Com's Death Penalty Activism Center
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Survey of the Federal Death Penalty System
A Statistical Survey, 1988-2000
U.S. Department of Justice publication.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Trial and Error: Capital Punishment in U.S. History
Americans engaged in the debate over the morality and effectiveness of the death penalty, as well as issues of discrimination in its application, often mistakenly assume its unquestioned presence throughout American history. William McFeely, pulitzer prize-winning historian and Abraham Baldwin Professor of the Humanities emeritus at the University of Georgia, addresses the long-standing historical debates over capital punishment, examining legislative efforts to both limit and allow the death penalty, attempts to make the process more “humane” by reforming the method and conditions of execution, and changing public attitudes that reflect current political and social trends. William S. McFeely.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

US Capital Punishment Statistics -- USDOJ, BJS
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pubalp2.htm#Capital Punishment
The US Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics provides detailed capital punishment data for 1993 to 1997 at its Website.
(Last checked 11/11/09)

Books on the death penalty available in the MSU Library, the MSU College of Law Library, and the Library of Michigan.


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