This seminar will explore the statutory and constitutional rules regarding implementation of the death penalty in the United States. The course will begin with a brief discussion of arguments by proponents and opponents of the death penalty. We will then address the development of Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment restrictions on the use of capital punishment, including categorical exemptions from the death penalty for the insane, the mentally retarded, juveniles, certain felony-murderers, and those who do not commit homicide. Next, we will look at issues surrounding the execution itself, including competency to be executed and the use of lethal injection and other methods of execution. We will examine the unique hallmarks of capital litigation including: the selection of a “death qualified” jury; the use of aggravating and mitigating factors, and victim impact evidence; the special guidance given to capital jurors; effective assistance of counsel in the capital context; procedural rights at sentencing; and the vexing issue of death penalty “volunteers.” The prominent issue of race and its relation to the death penalty will also be addressed. Traditional class discussion will be supplemented with in-class exercises in which students take on the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and state legislators.
*Special topic course