Because Death Is Different: Legal and Moral Arguments for Broadening Defendants' Rights to Discovery in Federal Capital Cases

By Lindeman, Stefanie | St. John's Law Review, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Because Death Is Different: Legal and Moral Arguments for Broadening Defendants' Rights to Discovery in Federal Capital Cases


Lindeman, Stefanie, St. John's Law Review


Capital punishment has existed in America since this nation was founded,2 yet there are few other legal issues that inspire such passionate debate among scholars3 and among the administrators of justice.4 Arguments on both sides of the line rest in religion,5 ethics,6 legal principles,7 and sheer emotion.8 But reasonable persons on both sides of the line would have to agree that if we are to have a death penalty, it must be justly administered. Death is the most extreme form of punishment; the utmost care is required in its imposition.9 There are few who would knowingly support a system that imposed death without granting the defendant due process,10 that discriminated by race or class of the defendant or victim, or regularly resulted in the execution of the innocent.

Indeed, the law demands protection against such evils if the death penalty is to be imposed. In Furman v. Georgia,11 the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, struck down Georgia's death penalty12 on the grounds that, while the death penalty was not in and of itself unconstitutional,13 its arbitrary application under the Georgia statute rendered it cruel and unusual.14 The Furman decision was the longest in the Court's history, at 50,000 words, 243 pages.ls Despite its length, however, Furman offered little guidance as to the constitutional application of a death penalty; the justices wrote nine different opinions, and they continued to interpret and reinterpret the holdings of Furman in later cases.16 The Supreme Court has not addressed many of the constitutional implications of the relatively new federal death penalty,17 including the fair administration of pre-trial proceedings. However, three recent decisions by federal district courts in Rhode Island and Connecticut have limited the discovery rights of defendants in capital cases.18 These decisions warrant examination, mindful that defendants, even innocent ones, are often only separated from a death sentence by the niceties of procedure.19

This Note argues for broadening the defendant's right to discovery in the early stages of a potential federal capital case. Part I sets forth the procedure a U.S. Attorney must follow in order to obtain permission to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty and explains the defendant's right to participate in that process. Part I also reviews recent district court holdings limiting defendants' rights to discovery in these early stages of a potential death penalty case. Part II explores the need for special care in the administration of death penalty cases because of the finality of death and the limitations of the appeal process. Part III examines the risk of racial bias in the imposition of the death penalty and concludes that principles of equality and law demand a heightened protection of the defendant's right to discovery of "pattern of discrimination" materials. Finally, Part IV submits that constitutional guarantees of the rights of due process and effective counsel mandate that potential defendants be granted broader discovery rights.

I. DISCOVERY IN FEDERAL CAPITAL CASES: LAW AND PRECEDENT

A. Seeking the Federal Death Penalty: The Department of Justice

Protocol

The Department of Justice has set forth procedures to be followed by the United States Attorney's Office and the Attorney General's Office in every federal case in which the death penalty can be sought.20 A U.S. Attorney may not seek the death penalty absent the Attorney General's prior written authorization.21 Whenever a defendant is charged with an offense subject to the death penalty, the U.S. Attorney must submit to the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division a "Death Penalty Evaluation form" and a prosecution memorandum, which will include any aggravating and mitigating factors related to the crime and the defendant, as well as the defendant's background and criminal history.22 A committee appointed by the Attorney General reviews the case and makes a recommendation to the Attorney General, who ultimately may direct the U. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Because Death Is Different: Legal and Moral Arguments for Broadening Defendants' Rights to Discovery in Federal Capital Cases
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.