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Capital punishment

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Foreword: The Death Penalty In Decline: From Colonial America To The Present, John Bessler Jan 2014

Foreword: The Death Penalty In Decline: From Colonial America To The Present, John Bessler

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This Article traces the history of capital punishment in America. It describes the death penalty's curtailment in colonial Pennsylvania by William Penn, and the substantial influence of the Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria -- the first Enlightenment thinker to advocate the abolition of executions -- on the Founding Fathers' views. The Article also describes the transition away from "sanguinary" laws and punishments toward the "penitentiary system" and highlights the U.S. penal system's abandonment of non-lethal corporal punishments.


Madness Alone Punishes The Madman: The Search For Moral Dignity In The Court's Competency Doctrine As Applied In Capital Cases, J. Amy Dillard Apr 2012

Madness Alone Punishes The Madman: The Search For Moral Dignity In The Court's Competency Doctrine As Applied In Capital Cases, J. Amy Dillard

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The purposes of the competency doctrine are to guarantee reliability in criminal prosecutions, to ensure that only those defendants who can appreciate punishment are subject to it, and to maintain moral dignity, both actual and apparent, in criminal proceedings. No matter his crime, the “madman” should not be forced to stand trial. Historically, courts viewed questions of competency as a binary choice, finding the defendant either competent or incompetent to stand trial. However, in Edwards v. Indiana, the Supreme Court conceded that it views competency on a spectrum and offered a new category of competency — borderline-competent. The Court held that ...


And Death Shall Have No Dominion: How To Achieve The Categorical Exemption Of Mentally Retarded Defendants From Execution, J. Amy Dillard Mar 2011

And Death Shall Have No Dominion: How To Achieve The Categorical Exemption Of Mentally Retarded Defendants From Execution, J. Amy Dillard

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This article examines the Court’s categorical exclusion of mentally retarded defendants from execution and explores how trial courts should employ procedures to accomplish heightened reliability in the mental retardation determination; it maintains that if a mentally retarded defendant is subjected to a death sentence then the Atkins directive has been ignored. To satisfy the Atkins Court’s objective of protecting mentally retarded defendants from the “special risk of wrongful execution,” the article explores whether trial courts should engage in a unified, pre-trial competency assessment in all capital cases where the defendant asserts mental retardation as a bar to execution ...


Revisiting Beccaria's Vision: The Enlightenment, America's Death Penalty, And The Abolition Movement, John Bessler Oct 2009

Revisiting Beccaria's Vision: The Enlightenment, America's Death Penalty, And The Abolition Movement, John Bessler

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In 1764, Cesare Beccaria, a 26-year-old Italian criminologist, penned On Crimes and Punishments. That treatise spoke out against torture and made the first comprehensive argument against state-sanctioned executions. As we near the 250th anniversary of its publication, law professor John Bessler provides a comprehensive review of the abolition movement from before Beccaria's time to the present. Bessler reviews Beccaria's substantial influence on Enlightenment thinkers and on America's Founding Fathers in particular. The Article also provides an extensive review of Eighth Amendment jurisprudence and then contrasts it with the trend in international law towards the death penalty's ...


Death And Harmless Error: A Rhetorical Response To Judging Innocence, Colin Starger Feb 2008

Death And Harmless Error: A Rhetorical Response To Judging Innocence, Colin Starger

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Professor Garrett’s impressive empirical analysis of the first 200 post conviction DNA exonerations in the United States (“Garrett Study”) has the potential to affect contemporary debates surrounding our nation’s criminal justice system. This Response explores this potential by harnessing the Study’s data in support of arguments for and against a contested doctrinal proposition — that guilt-based harmless error rules should never apply in death penalty appeals. My analysis starts with the premise that the Study’s real world impact will necessarily depend on how jurists, politicians, and scholars extrapolate the explanatory power of the data beyond the 200 ...


Without Limitation: 'Groundhog Day' For Incompetent Defendants, J. Amy Dillard Jul 2007

Without Limitation: 'Groundhog Day' For Incompetent Defendants, J. Amy Dillard

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This Article offers a brief overview of the standards for determining competency to stand trial. After examining the seminal case of Jackson v. Indiana, which held that the indefinite pre-trial detention of incompetent defendants violates due process, this Article argues that Virginia Code § 19.2-169.3, like statutes in twenty other states, violates a defendant's right to substantive due process, including the right to be free from forcible medication. This Article proposes legislation that will make the process constitutional, while addressing the concerns about the release of dangerous individuals held by the prosecutors and the community.


The Innocence Protection Act Of 2004: A Small Step Forward And A Framework For Larger Reforms, Ronald Weich Mar 2005

The Innocence Protection Act Of 2004: A Small Step Forward And A Framework For Larger Reforms, Ronald Weich

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Passage of the Innocence Protection Act in the closing days of the 108th Congress was a watershed moment. To be sure, the bill that finally became law was a shadow of the more ambitious criminal justice reforms first championed five years earlier by Senator Pat Leahy, Congressman Bill Delahunt and others. But the enactment of legislation designed to strengthen — not weaken — procedural protections for death row inmates was rich in symbolic importance and promise.

Writing in the April 2001 issue of THE CHAMPION (Innocence Protection Act: Death Penalty Reform on the Horizon), I said optimistically: "The criminal justice pendulum may ...


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

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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 ...


Innocence Protection Act: Death Penalty Reform On The Horizon, Ronald Weich Apr 2001

Innocence Protection Act: Death Penalty Reform On The Horizon, Ronald Weich

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The criminal justice pendulum may be swinging back in the direction of fairness. The Innocence Protection Act of 2001, introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier this year, promises meaningful reforms in the administration of capital punishment in the United States.

Unlike previous slabs at reform, the Innocence Protection Act (lPA) has a real chance to become law because it commands unusually broad bipartisan support. The Senate bill (S. 486) is sponsored by Democrat Pat Leahy of Vermont and Republican Gordon Smith of Oregon. The House bill (H.R. 912) is sponsored by Democrat Bill Delahunt ...


Will The Punishment Fit The Victims? The Case For Pre-Trial Disclosure, And The Uncharted Future Of Victim Impact Information In Capital Jury Sentencing, José F. Anderson Jan 1997

Will The Punishment Fit The Victims? The Case For Pre-Trial Disclosure, And The Uncharted Future Of Victim Impact Information In Capital Jury Sentencing, José F. Anderson

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The United States Supreme Court decision in Payne v. Tennessee, upholding the use of victim impact statements in capital jury sentencing proceedings, marked one of the most dramatic reversals of a precedent in the history of United States constitutional jurisprudence. The decision in Payne expressly overruled Booth v. Maryland decided only four years earlier. The Booth case rejected the use of victim impact statements in capital sentencing cases that involved juries. In Payne, the Supreme Court made it clear that victims were entitled to offer, and juries were permitted to consider, the effect that a "death eligible" homicide had on ...