Capital Punishment in the United States: A Documentary History

By Bryan Vila; Cynthia Morris | Go to book overview

Part V
The Debate Begins Anew, 1977-1989

EXECUTIONS AND APPEALS RESUME

The post-Furman resumption of executions in 1977 marked the beginning of a new era of debate over capital punishment. In the midst of mounting public support for the death penalty, the Supreme Court was inundated with habeas challenges to the new capital laws. These challenges led to a series of decisions that refined legal issues such as what kinds of offenders could be eligible for death sentences and for execution, what types of crimes could be punishable by death, and what kinds of evidence properly could be presented during the penalty phase of trials. As we discuss later, the interminable delays in carrying out capital sentences associated with these challenges also were important.

Some of the cases were "categorical" challenges of the use of the death penalty for crimes such as rape (see Document 64) or against juveniles (Document 86) or for people who were insane or retarded (Documents 76, 88) or were accomplices to felony murder whose roles had been relatively minor (Documents 66, 69). Other appeals attempted to broaden the range of mitigating factors that could -- and should -- be considered by juries and judges in the sentencing portion of capital trials (Document 70). In deciding in favor of considering more mitigating factors, the Supreme Court increased the possibility for more fully informed sentencing decisions, but it also increased the likelihood of arbitrary death sentences (Paternoster 1991:76-77; Schwed 1983: 164). Substantially less than one out of ten people sentenced to death row were eventually executed, and many abolitionists argued that the difference between them and people who were not killed by the state

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Capital Punishment in the United States: A Documentary History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents xi
  • Series Foreword xix
  • Preface xxi
  • Introduction xxv
  • Note xxxv
  • Significant Dates in the History of Capital Punishment xxxvii
  • Part I - Early Views on Capital Punishment: Colonial Era to Independence 1
  • Note 12
  • Part II - The Abolition Movement Gains Ground, 1800-1917 31
  • Note 37
  • Note 52
  • Note 66
  • Part III - War and Economic Depression Overshadow Capital Punishment, 1918-1959 75
  • Note 90
  • Note 102
  • Part IV - Capital Punishment in the Courts, 1960-1976 109
  • Note 128
  • Note 141
  • Note 152
  • Note 157
  • Note 162
  • Part V - The Debate Begins Anew, 1977-1989 169
  • Note 178
  • Note 181
  • Note 186
  • Note 190
  • Note 192
  • Note 208
  • Note 231
  • Part VI - The Death Penalty in the 1990s: Contemporary Issues 247
  • Note 287
  • Note 289
  • Glossary 301
  • Appendix A - Federal and State Capital Offenses in the United States 303
  • Appendix B - U.S. Executions: Colonial Times to 1995 309
  • Appendix C - Selected U.S. Supreme Court Cases 311
  • Appendix D - Capital Punishment Interest Groups and Related Organizations 313
  • Select Bibliography 315
  • Index 327
  • About the Editors *
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