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University of Baltimore Law

Capital punishment

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The Italian Enlightenment And The American Revolution: Cesare Beccaria's Forgotten Influence On American Law, John Bessler Jan 2017

The Italian Enlightenment And The American Revolution: Cesare Beccaria's Forgotten Influence On American Law, John Bessler

All Faculty Scholarship

The influence of the Italian Enlightenment—the Illuminismo—on the American Revolution has long been neglected. While historians regularly acknowledge the influence of European thinkers such as William Blackstone, John Locke and Montesquieu, Cesare Beccaria’s contributions to the origins and development of American law have largely been forgotten by twenty-first century Americans. In fact, Beccaria’s book, Dei delitti e delle pene (1764), translated into English as On Crimes and Punishments (1767), significantly shaped the views of American revolutionaries and lawmakers. The first four U.S. Presidents—George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison—were inspired by ...


The Anomaly Of Executions: The Cruel And Unusual Punishments Clause In The 21st Century, John Bessler Jan 2013

The Anomaly Of Executions: The Cruel And Unusual Punishments Clause In The 21st Century, John Bessler

All Faculty Scholarship

This Article describes the anomaly of executions in the context of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. While the Supreme Court routinely reads the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause to protect prisoners from harm, the Court simultaneously interprets the Eighth Amendment to allow inmates to be executed. Corporal punishments short of death have long been abandoned in America’s penal system, yet executions — at least in a few locales, heavily concentrated in the South — persist. This Article, which seeks a principled and much more consistent interpretation of the Eighth Amendment, argues that executions should be declared unconstitutional ...


Tinkering Around The Edges: The Supreme Court's Death Penalty Jurisprudence, John Bessler Oct 2012

Tinkering Around The Edges: The Supreme Court's Death Penalty Jurisprudence, John Bessler

All Faculty Scholarship

This Essay examines America's death penalty forty years after Furman and provides a critique of the Supreme Court's existing Eighth Amendment case law. Part I briefly summarizes how the Court, to date, has approached death sentences, while Part II highlights the incongruous manner in which the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause has been read. For instance, Justice Antonin Scalia-one of the Court's most vocal proponents of "originalism" conceded that corporal punishments such as handbranding and public flogging are no longer constitutionally permissible; yet, he (and the Court itself) continues to allow death sentences to be imposed. The ...


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 ...