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Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment
     

Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment

by Carol S. Steiker, Jordan M. Steiker
 

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Unique among Western democracies in refusing to eradicate the death penalty, the United States has attempted instead to reform and rationalize state death penalty practices through federal constitutional law. Courting Death traces the unusual and distinctive history of top-down judicial regulation of capital punishment under the Constitution and its

Overview

Unique among Western democracies in refusing to eradicate the death penalty, the United States has attempted instead to reform and rationalize state death penalty practices through federal constitutional law. Courting Death traces the unusual and distinctive history of top-down judicial regulation of capital punishment under the Constitution and its unanticipated consequences for our time.

In the 1960s and 1970s, in the face of widespread abolition of the death penalty around the world, provisions for capital punishment that had long fallen under the purview of the states were challenged in federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court intervened in two landmark decisions, first by constitutionally invalidating the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia (1972) on the grounds that it was capricious and discriminatory, followed four years later by restoring it in Gregg v. Georgia (1976). Since then, by neither retaining capital punishment in unfettered form nor abolishing it outright, the Supreme Court has created a complex regulatory apparatus that has brought executions in many states to a halt, while also failing to address the problems that led the Court to intervene in the first place.

While execution chambers remain active in several states, constitutional regulation has contributed to the death penalty’s new fragility. In the next decade or two, Carol Steiker and Jordan Steiker argue, the fate of the American death penalty is likely to be sealed by this failed judicial experiment. Courting Death illuminates both the promise and pitfalls of constitutional regulation of contentious social issues.

Editorial Reviews

Lincoln Caplan
This is the most important book about the death penalty for a generation and, likely, ever. Anyone who cares about the state of justice in America should read this book.
Bernard E. Harcourt
Courting Death is a brilliant and insightful book with a powerful thesis, namely that the death penalty in the United States has been unwittingly regulated to death. It is the most forceful and significant intervention I have read on the question of capital punishment to date, a remarkable contribution to our legal, historical, and political debates.
Michael Meltsner
Carol and Jordan Steiker…are the leading contemporary scholars of the death penalty. In Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment they have brilliantly defined—in language accessible to the general reader—the massive dysfunction of the current system and the course that a future Supreme Court could take to do away with it.
Los Angeles Review of Books - Stephen Rohde
[The Steikers] provide a clear and comprehensive look at the 40-year modern history of capital punishment in the United States since its reinstatement in 1976…Courting Death provides an excellent survey of the history of capital punishment and the prospects of abolition…The Steikers explain technical legal issues with such clarity that their book is highly accessible to lawyer and layperson alike.
Huffington Post - Glenn C. Altschuler
The Steikers deliver an extraordinarily well-documented, forceful and ferocious assault on state and federal administration of capital punishment since then. Courting Death is, almost certainly, the best book on this subject.
Library Journal
10/15/2016
Carol (Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law, Harvard Univ. Law Sch.) and Jordan Steiker's (Judge Robert M. Parker Endowed Chair in Law, Univ. of Texas Sch. of Law) extensively researched book about the Supreme Court and the death penalty argues that the court's approach to such cases has made the law unsustainable. By examining the history of capital punishment in the United States and the cultural, racial, and socioeconomic differences in its application, the authors show that these cases are often delayed for years by the justice system. In addition, ethical questions about methods of execution and questions about wrongful convictions have led to further delays and questions about the ethics of the death penalty itself. The costs of capital cases and the way they have strained the states' indigent defense budgets are also factors in the authors' argument and one of the most interesting parts of the book. VERDICT This thought-provoking work explores a timely topic. Law and social work students and those with a serious interest in the death penalty will want to read it. Recommended for academic and law libraries.—Becky Kennedy, Atlanta-Fulton P.L.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674737426
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
11/07/2016
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
217,698
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

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Meet the Author

Carol S. Steiker is Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Jordan M. Steiker is Judge Robert M. Parker Endowed Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law.

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