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Full-Text Articles in Law

Strategery's Refuge, Christopher W. Seeds Oct 2009

Strategery's Refuge, Christopher W. Seeds

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

By popular account, the Supreme Court’s recent decisions on effective assistance of counsel in capital sentencing—aggressive critiques of counsel’s failure to investigate and present mitigating evidence—initiate an era of improved oversight of the quality of legal representation in death penalty cases. One would expect the new and improved jurisprudence to curb post hoc efforts by trial counsel to disguise incomplete trial preparation as a tactical decision, a practice that has long undercut the Strickland doctrine. But the shelters for post hoc rationalizations—the refuges for “strategery”—remain. Surveying decisions of the federal courts of appeals since ...


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

All Faculty Scholarship

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 ...


Of Atkins And Men: Deviations From Clinical Definitions Of Mental Retardation In Death Penalty Cases, John H. Blume, Sheri Johnson, Christopher W. Seeds Jul 2009

Of Atkins And Men: Deviations From Clinical Definitions Of Mental Retardation In Death Penalty Cases, John H. Blume, Sheri Johnson, Christopher W. Seeds

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

Under Atkins v. Virginia, the Eighth Amendment exempts from execution individuals who meet the clinical definitions of mental retardation set forth by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the American Psychiatric Association. Both define mental retardation as significantly subaverage intellectual functioning accompanied by significant limitations in adaptive functioning, originating before the age of 18. Since Atkins, most jurisdictions have adopted definitions of mental retardation that conform to those definitions. But some states, looking often to stereotypes of persons with mental retardation, apply exclusion criteria that deviate from and are more restrictive than the accepted scientific and clinical ...


Back To A Future: Reversing Keith Simpson's Death Sentence And Making Peace With The Victim's Family Through Post-Conviction Investigation, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson Jul 2009

Back To A Future: Reversing Keith Simpson's Death Sentence And Making Peace With The Victim's Family Through Post-Conviction Investigation, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

In 1993, Keith Simpson was arrested for the murder of Joe Harrison; in 2006, he was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole in 2022. Between those two events, Simpson was sentenced to death, had his death sentence vacated by the post-conviction relief court, reached a plea agreement with the victim's family and the new Solicitor, saw the agreement invalidated when the Attorney General's office overrode the family and the Solicitor by appealing the post-conviction court's decision, lost the lower court's decision to an appellate reversal, and won a cross-appeal for a new trial. You ...


An Empirical Look At Atkins V. Virginia And Its Application In Capital Cases, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, Christopher Seeds Apr 2009

An Empirical Look At Atkins V. Virginia And Its Application In Capital Cases, John H. Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, Christopher Seeds

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

In Atkins vs. Virginia, the Supreme Court declared that evolving standards of decency and the Eighth Amendment prohibit the death penalty for individuals with intellectual disability (formerly, "mental retardation"). Both supporters and opponents of the categorical exemption, however, have criticized the Atkins opinion. The Atkins dissent, for example, urged that the decision would open the gates of litigation to a flood of frivolous claims. Another prominent criticism, heard from those more supportive of the Court's ruling, has been that the language the Court used communicating that states must "generally conform" to the clinical definitions of mental retardation is ambiguous ...


The Afterlife Of Ford And Panetti: Execution Competence And The Capacity To Assist Counsel, Christopher W. Seeds Jan 2009

The Afterlife Of Ford And Panetti: Execution Competence And The Capacity To Assist Counsel, Christopher W. Seeds

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

The capacity to assist counsel and communicate a defense once held a central place in assessing competence for execution. Since Ford v. Wainwright (1986), however, courts have discarded this measure, viewing Justice Powell’s concurring opinion, which required only that a prisoner understand the execution as mortal punishment for a capital crime, as the Eighth Amendment rule. In a significant development, the Supreme Court’s decision in Panetti v. Quarterman (2007) - its first interpreting Ford - sends notice that Justice Powell’s statements on the substantive standard are not Ford's rule, providing a long overdue opportunity to address whether executing ...


The Deterrent Effect Of Death Penalty Eligibility: Evidence From The Adoption Of Child Murder Eligibility Factors, Michael D. Frakes, Matthew Harding Jan 2009

The Deterrent Effect Of Death Penalty Eligibility: Evidence From The Adoption Of Child Murder Eligibility Factors, Michael D. Frakes, Matthew Harding

Faculty Scholarship

We draw on within-state variations in the reach of capital punishment statutes between 1977 and 2004 to identify the deterrent effects associated with capital eligibility. Focusing on the most prevalent eligibility expansion, we estimate that the adoption of a child murder factor is associated with an approximately 20% reduction in the homicide rate of youth victims. Eligibility expansions may enhance deterrence by (1) paving the way for more executions and (2) providing prosecutors with greater leverage to secure enhanced non-capital sentences. While executions themselves are rare, this latter channel is likely to be triggered fairly regularly, providing a reasonable basis ...


Crime Labs And Prison Guards: A Comment On Melendez-Diaz And Its Potential Impact On Capital Sentencing Proceedings, John H. Blume, Emily C. Paavola Jan 2009

Crime Labs And Prison Guards: A Comment On Melendez-Diaz And Its Potential Impact On Capital Sentencing Proceedings, John H. Blume, Emily C. Paavola

Cornell Law Faculty Publications

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him." Four years ago, in Crawford v. Washington, the United States Supreme Court held that this right bars the admission of testimonial hearsay statements against criminal defendants, regardless of whether or not the statements fall within an evidentiary hearsay exception. It was a decision that other courts later described as a "bombshell," a "renaissance," and "a newly shaped lens" through which to view the Confrontation Clause. The case generated an extensive amount of discussion among legal commentators.

Since its ...


When It's So Hard To Relate: Can The Legal System Mitigate The Trauma Of Victim-Offender Relationships?, Jody L. Madeira Jan 2009

When It's So Hard To Relate: Can The Legal System Mitigate The Trauma Of Victim-Offender Relationships?, Jody L. Madeira

Articles by Maurer Faculty

This article argues that, in the aftermath of violent crime, a relationship that is both negative and involuntary can form between crime victims and offenders. This relationship fetters the victim to the crime and the criminal, rendering it difficult to recover from the transgression. To illustrate how such a relationship may form and what consequences it may have for victims, this article uses the Oklahoma City bombing as a case study, documenting through the use of original interviews an involuntary relationship in which victims' family members and survivors perceived they were tethered to Timothy McVeigh. This perceived relationship with McVeigh ...


Executions, Deterrence And Homicide: A Tale Of Two Cities, Franklin Zimring, Jeffrey Fagan, David T. Johnson Jan 2009

Executions, Deterrence And Homicide: A Tale Of Two Cities, Franklin Zimring, Jeffrey Fagan, David T. Johnson

Faculty Scholarship

We compare homicide rates in two quite similar cities with vastly different execution risks. Singapore had an execution rate close to 1 per million per year until an explosive twentyfold increase in 1994-95 and 1996-97 to a level that we show was probably the highest in the world. Then over the next 11 years, Singapore executions dropped by about 95%. Hong Kong, by contrast,has no executions all during the last generation and abolished capital punishment in 1993. Homicide levels and trends are remarkably similar in these two cities over the 35 years after 1973, with neither the surge in ...


American Oresteia: Herbert Wechsler, The Model Penal Code, And The Uses Of Revenge, Anders Walker Jan 2009

American Oresteia: Herbert Wechsler, The Model Penal Code, And The Uses Of Revenge, Anders Walker

All Faculty Scholarship

The American Law Institute recently revised the Model Penal Code's sentencing provisions, calling for a renewed commitment to proportionality based on the gravity of offenses, the "blameworthiness" of offenders, and the "harms done to crime victims." Already, detractors have criticized this move, arguing that it replaces the Code's original commitment to rehabilitation with a more punitive attention to retribution. Yet, missing from such calumny is an awareness of retribution's subtle yet significant role in both the drafting and enactment of the first Model Penal Code (MPC). This article recovers that role by focusing on the retributive views ...


Cruel And Unequal Punishment, Nita A. Farahany Jan 2009

Cruel And Unequal Punishment, Nita A. Farahany

Faculty Scholarship

This article argues Atkins and its progeny of categorical exemptions to the death penalty create and new and as of yet undiscovered interaction between the Eighth and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The United States Supreme Court, the legal academy and commentators have failed to consider the relationship between the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause and the Equal Protection Clause that the Court's new Eighth Amendment jurisprudence demands. This article puts forth a new synthesis of these two clauses, and demonstrates how the Court's new Eighth Amendment jurisprudence has remarkable Fourteenth Amendment implications. To see ...