Capital Punishment in Texas Khalil Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2595 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

.they believe a reasonable jury would give it." This is a chilling statement, particularly in light of how race plays a determinant role in death penalty sentencing.

Sorensen, Jonathan. "An actuarial risk assessment of violence posed by capital murder defendants." The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. 90(4): Summer 2000.

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Many jurors impose the death penalty because they fear that inmates sentenced to life imprisonment may continue to pose dangers -- to themselves, their fellow inmates or to prison guards. To investigate this premise, Sorensen uses actuarial tools to examine whether prison violence could be predicted reliably by factors like a prisoner's age and time served. Sorenson found that many jurors and people in general are strongly influenced by stereotypes and images in popular culture, which overestimate violence and recidivism in the nation's prisons. Most jurors had exaggerated ideas of prison violence, not realizing that the constraints of prison life reduces the potential of violence. Homicide rates in prison are much lower than on the outside. In fact, correctional administrators and inmates find convicted murderers as the most trouble-free inmates, since many murderers are committed in heated emotion. Sorenson further finds that a mandatory 40-year prison term means that an older paroled defendant is the least likely to lapse back to crime. The figures in this study demonstrate again the weaknesses of death penalty cases, which are decided on factors such as wrong perceptions of jurors. Furthermore, the article presents life sentences and long prison terms as viable alternatives to capital punishment.

Myers, Karl S. "Practical Lackey: The Impact of Holding Execution After a Long Stay on Death Row Unconstitutional Under Lackey v. Texas." Dickinson Law Review, 106(3): Winter 2002.

Term Paper on Capital Punishment in Texas Khalil, Assignment

Myers starts the article with the case of Jose Ceya, who has spent 23 years in Arizona's death row system before being executed in 1998. Ceja's execution was delayed four times, after he was resentenced first because of trial error and again when the Arizona death penalty law was challenged based on constitutional grounds. Many prisoners, Myers argues, suffer through the "death row phenomenon," which causes massive psychological breakdowns due to repeated stays. The author charges that this result of protracted stays on death row is cruel and dehumanizing.

In Lackey v. Texas, a judge has previously ruled that staging an execution following repeated delays could constitute a violation of an inmate's Eighth Amendment rights. The author contends that "practical effects" of holding an execution after stays have been provided have not yet been explored. By highlighting the problem, the author argues for a "shocks the conscience" test that would evaluate whether such protracted death row stays violate the Eight Amendment provisions against cruel and unusual punishment.

Marquart, James W., Ekland-Olson, Sheldon and Sorensen, Jonathan. The Rope, the Chair and the Needle: Capital Punishment in Texas, 1923-1990. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.

The authors of this book examine data regarding legal executions that have been conducted between 1819 to 1990. The result is a rich and comprehensive text that examines the evolution of capital punishment in Texas. Based on this data, Marquart et al. argue that the capital punishment system in Texas has its roots in the practice of lynching and in slavery. These racially charged practices led to the institutionalization and general acceptance of the death penalty in the largest state in the lower 48 states.

This thesis thus explains why African-Americans and later, Mexican-Americans are overwhelmingly represented on Texas's death row. In the past, the authors present convincing data that shows how illegal lynching and later, state-ordained executions received wide acceptance in societies that placed little importance on people of color, as well as people with little education or finances.

In addition to the question of capital punishment in Texas, this book also provides deep insight into the development of the death penalty in the rest of the country as well.

Mello, Michael. A Death Row Lawyer Speaks Out against Capital Punishment. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.

Though author Michael Mello draws largely from his experience as an appeals lawyer for Florida death row inmates, many of his arguments remain salient for Texas as well. Mello argues that high publicity often interferes with due process, resulting in executions that are unconstitutional. In addition to the media, the author cites judges who are "either stupid or malicious."

The personal nature of Mello's accounts may lead to charges of bias. However, Mello's often angry accounts also give faces to the arbitrary and capricious nature of the death penalty system. Many of the cases that Mello had culled from 14 years of "deathwork" echo the questions raised in high-profile Texas cases, such as the trials of Andrea Yates and Nathaniel Beazley.

Sarat, Austin. The Killing State: Capital Punishment in Law, Politics and Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

In this book, author Austin Sarat edits a series of essays asks fundamental questions regarding the death penalty. These include questions regarding the fairness of the death penalty and the so-called deterrent effects of capital punishment. The book discusses the constant quest for more "humane" methods of execution, such as the rope and the electric chair. He also looks at portrayals of capital punishment in the media and popular culture, such as the movies. Based on these essays, Sarat argues that state executions are "symbolic displays of power" that Americans have taken on as a sign of their sovereignty. In addition, the clandestine nature of executions also show a reluctance to take responsibility for these state-sanctioned killings.

These articles provide cogent arguments regarding the divisive nature of the death penalty in American culture, arguments which could be applied to Texas as well. In When the State Kills, Sarat shows that rather than providing social protections, the death penalty actually undermines democracy by failing to provide controls regarding capital punishment.

Owens, Virginia Stem and Owens, David Clinton. Living Next Door to the Death House. New York: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003.

In this book, the authors present the effects of executions in the town of Huntsville, Texas, known as "the death penalty capital of the United States." While other accounts focus on the victims or the offenders, Owens and Owens conduct in-depth interviews with prison guards, wardens, chaplains and other people who are involved in executions, many of which are Huntsville residents. Particularly affecting are the interviews with the technicians who directly administer the lethal injections to the inmates who are executed.

These interviews show that many of the people whose lives are directly affected by the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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