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Full-Text Articles in Legal History

Mccleskey V. Kemp: Field Notes From 1977-1991, John Charles Boger Jun 2018

Mccleskey V. Kemp: Field Notes From 1977-1991, John Charles Boger

Northwestern University Law Review

The litigation campaign that led to McCleskey v. Kemp did not begin as an anti-death-penalty effort. It grew in soil long washed in the blood of African-Americans, lynched or executed following rude semblances of trials and hasty appeals, which had prompted the NAACP from its very founding to demand “simple justice” in individual criminal cases. When the Warren Court signaled, in the early 1960s, that it might be open to reflection on broader patterns of racial discrimination in capital sentencing, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) began to gather empirical evidence and craft appropriate constitutional responses. As that effort built, other deficiencies in state capital states became apparent, and LDF eventually asserted a broader constitutional critique of state capital structures and processes. By 1967, LDF and its allies had developed a nationwide “moratorium” campaign that challenged death sentencing statutes in virtually every state.

Though the campaign appeared poised for partial success in 1969, changes in Court personnel and shifts in the nation’s mood dashed LDF’s initial hopes. Yet unexpectedly, in 1972, five Justices ruled in Furman v. Georgia that all death sentences and all capital statutes nationwide would fall under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. Each of the nine Furman Justices wrote separately, without a single governing rationale beyond their expressed uneasiness that the death penalty was being imposed infrequently, capriciously, and in an arbitrary manner. Thirty-five states promptly enacted new and revised capital statutes. Four years later, a majority of the Court held that three of those new state statutes met Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment standards. The 1976 Court majority expressed confidence that the states’ newly revised procedures should work to curb the arbitrariness and capriciousness that had earlier troubled the Furman majority.

The McCleskey case emerged from subsequent review of post-Furman sentencing patterns in the State of Georgia. A brilliant and exhaustive study by Professor David Baldus and his colleagues demonstrated that the Court’s assumptions in 1976 were wrong; strong racial disparities in capital sentencing continued to persist statewide in Georgia—especially in cases in ...


Death In America Under Color Of Law: Our Long, Inglorious Experience With Capital Punishment, Rob Warden, Daniel Lennard May 2018

Death In America Under Color Of Law: Our Long, Inglorious Experience With Capital Punishment, Rob Warden, Daniel Lennard

Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy

No abstract provided.


Justice Scalia’S Originalism And Formalism: The Rule Of Criminal Law As A Law Of Rules, Stephanos Bibas Aug 2016

Justice Scalia’S Originalism And Formalism: The Rule Of Criminal Law As A Law Of Rules, Stephanos Bibas

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Far too many reporters and pundits collapse law into politics, assuming that the left–right divide between Democratic and Republican appointees neatly explains politically liberal versus politically conservative outcomes at the Supreme Court. The late Justice Antonin Scalia defied such caricatures. His consistent judicial philosophy made him the leading exponent of originalism, textualism, and formalism in American law, and over the course of his three decades on the Court, he changed the terms of judicial debate. Now, as a result, supporters and critics alike start with the plain meaning of the statutory or constitutional text rather than loose appeals to ...


A Survey Of The History Of The Death Penalty In The United States, Sheherezade C. Malik, D. Paul Holdsworth Jan 2015

A Survey Of The History Of The Death Penalty In The United States, Sheherezade C. Malik, D. Paul Holdsworth

Law Student Publications

Since the founding of Jamestown Colony in 1607, few topics in American life and culture have generated as much controversy, both in terms of persistence and volatility, as the death penalty. Foreign policy, economic recessions, and social movements come to the forefront of national discussion in their own respective ebbs and flows. Capital punishment, however, has been a staple of the American criminal justice system since the early inhabiting of the continent, and has remained a permanent vehicle through which we can enact retribution on the most heinous criminal offenders in our society, ridding ourselves of the worst among us.


Killing The Non-Willing: Atkins, The Volitionally Incapacitated, And The Death Penalty, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson Dec 2014

Killing The Non-Willing: Atkins, The Volitionally Incapacitated, And The Death Penalty, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson

Sheri Lynn Johnson

Jamie Wilson, nineteen years old and severely mentally ill, walked into a school cafeteria and started shooting. Two children died, and Jamie was charged with two counts of capital murder. Because he admitted his guilt, the only issue at his trial was the appropriate punishment. The trial judge assigned to his case, after hearing expert testimony on his mental state, found that mental illness rendered Jamie unable to conform his conduct to the requirements of law at the time of the crime—not impaired by his mental illness in his ability to control his behavior, but unable to control his ...


Probing "Life Qualification" Through Expanded Voir Dire, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, A. Brian Threlkeld Dec 2014

Probing "Life Qualification" Through Expanded Voir Dire, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, A. Brian Threlkeld

Sheri Lynn Johnson

The conventional wisdom is that most trials are won or lost in jury selection. If this is true, then in many capital cases, jury selection is literally a matter of life or death. Given these high stakes and Supreme Court case law setting out standards for voir dire in capital cases, one might expect a sophisticated and thoughtful process in which each side carefully considers which jurors would be best in the particular case. Instead, it turns out that voir dire in capital cases is woefully ineffective at the most elementary task--weeding out unqualified jurors. Empirical evidence reveals that many ...


Killing The Non-Willing: Atkins, The Volitionally Incapacitated, And The Death Penalty, John Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson Dec 2014

Killing The Non-Willing: Atkins, The Volitionally Incapacitated, And The Death Penalty, John Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson

John H. Blume

Jamie Wilson, nineteen years old and severely mentally ill, walked into a school cafeteria and started shooting. Two children died, and Jamie was charged with two counts of capital murder. Because he admitted his guilt, the only issue at his trial was the appropriate punishment. The trial judge assigned to his case, after hearing expert testimony on his mental state, found that mental illness rendered Jamie unable to conform his conduct to the requirements of law at the time of the crime—not impaired by his mental illness in his ability to control his behavior, but unable to control his ...


Probing "Life Qualification" Through Expanded Voir Dire, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, A. Brian Threlkeld Dec 2014

Probing "Life Qualification" Through Expanded Voir Dire, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, A. Brian Threlkeld

John H. Blume

The conventional wisdom is that most trials are won or lost in jury selection. If this is true, then in many capital cases, jury selection is literally a matter of life or death. Given these high stakes and Supreme Court case law setting out standards for voir dire in capital cases, one might expect a sophisticated and thoughtful process in which each side carefully considers which jurors would be best in the particular case. Instead, it turns out that voir dire in capital cases is woefully ineffective at the most elementary task--weeding out unqualified jurors. Empirical evidence reveals that many ...


An Anachronism Too Discordant To Be Suffered: A Comparative Study Of Parliamentary And Presidential Approaches To Regulation Of The Death Penalty, Derek R. Verhagen Aug 2013

An Anachronism Too Discordant To Be Suffered: A Comparative Study Of Parliamentary And Presidential Approaches To Regulation Of The Death Penalty, Derek R. Verhagen

Derek R VerHagen

It is well-documented that the United States remains the only western democracy to retain the death penalty and finds itself ranked among the world's leading human rights violators in executions per year. However, prior to the Gregg v. Georgia decision in 1976, ending America's first and only moratorium on capital punishment, the U.S. was well in line with the rest of the civilized world in its approach to the death penalty. This Note argues that America's return to the death penalty is based primarily on the differences between classic parliamentary approaches to regulation and that of ...


Fifteen Years And Death: Double Jeopardy, Multiple Punishments, And Extended Stays On Death Row, Michael J. Johnson Jul 2013

Fifteen Years And Death: Double Jeopardy, Multiple Punishments, And Extended Stays On Death Row, Michael J. Johnson

Michael P. Johnson

Fifteen Years and Death is a Note that considers a completely novel application of the Double Jeopardy Clause to excessive time on death row. Traditionally, death penalty opponents have attacked the now fifteen-year average wait time on death row as a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments, but this argument has fallen flat time and time again as courts have been reluctant to find merely living in prison to be “cruel” or “unusual.” Most courts do admit, however, that such time on death row does constitute some sort of punishment. As originally imagined, the ...


Data Underlying "Living Death: Ambivalence, Delay, And Capital Punishment", Marianne Wesson, Amy Kingston, Jocelyn Jenks, Laura Mcnabb, Lauren Seger, Genet Tekeste, Edwin Hurwitz Feb 2013

Data Underlying "Living Death: Ambivalence, Delay, And Capital Punishment", Marianne Wesson, Amy Kingston, Jocelyn Jenks, Laura Mcnabb, Lauren Seger, Genet Tekeste, Edwin Hurwitz

Research Data

The documents here archived contain data compilations researched and recorded by me and my research assistants in connection with the article by Marianne "Mimi" Wesson, Living Death: Ambivalence, Delay, and Capital Punishment (Feb. 20, 2013), https://ssrn.com/abstract=2221597.

Our research investigated four study jurisdictions: Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, and Ohio. The data falls into two categories: analyses of reported appellate cases during designated periods in those jurisdictions; and investigations of the subsequent careers of every individual who resided on death row in one of our jurisdictions in April of 1995. The article further explains the impetus for these investigations ...


Intimate Homicide: Gender And Crime Control, 1880-1920, Carolyn B. Ramsey Jan 2006

Intimate Homicide: Gender And Crime Control, 1880-1920, Carolyn B. Ramsey

Articles

The received wisdom, among feminists and others, is that historically the criminal justice system tolerated male violence against women. This article dramatically revises feminist understanding of the legal history of public responses to intimate homicide by showing that, in both the eastern and the western United States, men accused of killing their intimates often received stern punishment, including the death penalty, whereas women charged with similar crimes were treated leniently. Although no formal "battered woman's defense" existed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, courts and juries implicitly recognized one--and even extended it to abandoned women who killed their ...


Cleaning Up The Eighth Amendment Mess, Tom Stacy Mar 2005

Cleaning Up The Eighth Amendment Mess, Tom Stacy

ExpressO

This article criticizes the Court’s interpretation of the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause and proposes its own understanding. The Court’s jurisprudence is plagued by deep inconsistencies concerning the text, the Court’s own role, and a constitutional requirement of proportionate punishment.

In search of ways to redress these fundamental shortcomings, the article explores three alternative interpretations: 1) A textualist approach; 2) Justice Scalia’s understanding that the Clause forbids only punishments unacceptable for all offenses; and 3) a majoritarian approach that would consistently define cruel and unusual punishment in terms of legislative judgments and penal ...


The Botched Hanging Of William Williams: How Too Much Rope And Minnesota’S Newspapers Brought An End To The Death Penalty In Minnesota, John Bessler Mar 2004

The Botched Hanging Of William Williams: How Too Much Rope And Minnesota’S Newspapers Brought An End To The Death Penalty In Minnesota, John Bessler

All Faculty Scholarship

This article describes Minnesota's last state-sanctioned execution: that of William Williams, who was hanged in 1906 in the basement of the Ramsey County Jail. Convicted of killing a teenage boy, Williams was tried on murder charges in 1905 and was put to death in February of the following year. Because the county sheriff miscalculated the length of the rope, the hanging was botched, with Williams hitting the floor when the trap door was opened. Three deputies, standing on the scaffold, thereafter seized the rope and forcibly pulled it up until Williams - fourteen and half minutes later - died by strangulation ...


Killing The Non-Willing: Atkins, The Volitionally Incapacitated, And The Death Penalty, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson Oct 2003

Killing The Non-Willing: Atkins, The Volitionally Incapacitated, And The Death Penalty, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

Jamie Wilson, nineteen years old and severely mentally ill, walked into a school cafeteria and started shooting. Two children died, and Jamie was charged with two counts of capital murder. Because he admitted his guilt, the only issue at his trial was the appropriate punishment. The trial judge assigned to his case, after hearing expert testimony on his mental state, found that mental illness rendered Jamie unable to conform his conduct to the requirements of law at the time of the crime—not impaired by his mental illness in his ability to control his behavior, but unable to control his ...


Some Effects Of Identity-Based Social Movements On Constitutional Law In The Twentieth Century, William N. Eskridge Jr. Aug 2002

Some Effects Of Identity-Based Social Movements On Constitutional Law In The Twentieth Century, William N. Eskridge Jr.

Michigan Law Review

What motivated big changes in constitutional law doctrine during the twentieth century? Rarely did important constitutional doctrine or theory change because of formal amendments to the document's text, and rarer still because scholars or judges "discovered" new information about the Constitution's original meaning. Precedent and common law reasoning were the mechanisms by which changes occurred rather than their driving force. My thesis is that most twentieth century changes in the constitutional protection of individual rights were driven by or in response to the great identity-based social movements ("IBSMs") of the twentieth century. Race, sex, and sexual orientation were ...


The Discretionary Power Of "Public" Prosecutors In Historical Perspective, Carolyn B. Ramsey Jan 2002

The Discretionary Power Of "Public" Prosecutors In Historical Perspective, Carolyn B. Ramsey

Articles

Norms urging prosecutors to seek justice by playing a quasi-judicial role and striving for fairness to defendants are often assumed to have deep historical roots. Yet, in fact, such a conception of the prosecutor's role is relatively new. Based on archival research on the papers of the New York County District Attorney's Office, "The Discretionary Power of 'Public' Prosecutors in Historical Perspective" explores the meaning of the word "public" as it applied to prosecutors in the nineteenth century. This article shows that, in the early days of public prosecution, district attorneys were expected to maximize convictions and leave ...


Probing "Life Qualification" Through Expanded Voir Dire, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, A. Brian Threlkeld Jul 2001

Probing "Life Qualification" Through Expanded Voir Dire, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, A. Brian Threlkeld

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

The conventional wisdom is that most trials are won or lost in jury selection. If this is true, then in many capital cases, jury selection is literally a matter of life or death. Given these high stakes and Supreme Court case law setting out standards for voir dire in capital cases, one might expect a sophisticated and thoughtful process in which each side carefully considers which jurors would be best in the particular case. Instead, it turns out that voir dire in capital cases is woefully ineffective at the most elementary task--weeding out unqualified jurors.

Empirical evidence reveals that many ...


The Racial Origins Of Modern Criminal Procedure, Michael J. Klarman Oct 2000

The Racial Origins Of Modern Criminal Procedure, Michael J. Klarman

Michigan Law Review

The constitutional law of state criminal procedure was born between the First and Second World Wars. Prior to 1920, the Supreme Court had upset the results of the state criminal justice system in just a handful of cases, all involving race discrimination in jury selection. By 1940, however, the Court had interpreted the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to invalidate state criminal convictions in a wide variety of settings: mob-dominated trials, violation of the right to counsel, coerced confessions, financially-biased judges, and knowingly perjured testimony by prosecution witnesses. In addition, the Court had broadened its earlier decisions forbidding ...


The Romance Of Revenge: Capital Punishment In America, Samuel R. Gross Jan 1993

The Romance Of Revenge: Capital Punishment In America, Samuel R. Gross

Articles

On February 17, 1992, Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced to 15 consecutive terms of life imprisonment for killing and dismembering 15 young men and boys (Associated Press 1992a). Dahmer had been arrested six months earlier, on July 22, 1991. On January 13 he pled guilty to the fifteen murder counts against him, leaving open only the issue of his sanity. Jury selection began two weeks later, and the trial proper started on January 30. The jury heard two weeks of testimony about murder, mutilation and necrophilia; they deliberated for 5 hours before finding that Dahmer was sane when he committed these ...


Societal Concepts Of Criminal Liability For Homicide In Medieval England, Thomas A. Green Jan 1972

Societal Concepts Of Criminal Liability For Homicide In Medieval England, Thomas A. Green

Articles

THE early history of English criminal law lies hidden behind the laconic formulas of the rolls and law books. The rules of the law, as expounded by the judges, have been the subject of many studies; but their practical application in the courts, where the jury of the community was the final and unbridled arbiter, remains a mystery: in short, we know little of the social mores regarding crime and crimi- nals. This study represents an attempt to delineate one major aspect of these societal attitudes. Its thesis is that from late Anglo-Saxon times to the end of the middle ...