In his article, “When Can You Buy a Gun, Vote, or Be Sentenced to Death? Science Suggests U.S. Should Revise Legal Age Limits”, in The Conversation, Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg explains how recent research on adolescent psychological and brain development “provides a compelling basis for changing our laws” to “increasing the minimum age for purchasing firearms, lowering the voting age, and raising the age of eligibility for capital punishment.”
In his chapter, “Capital Punishment” in The State of Criminal Justice 2017, death penalty attorney Ronald J. Tabak (Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, New York) offers an exhaustive review of the death penalty in the U.S. in 2016. Tabak looks at recent trends, including in sentencing, abolition efforts in various states, in state moratoriums, public opinion, and in growing opposition from faith groups. He reports on proportionality limits imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the effect of Hurst v. Florida (2016) in Florida, Delaware, and Alabama. He concludes on a high note: “The more that people know about the death penalty as actually implemented, the more they oppose it. The actual capital punishment in the United States can be justified only if one believes in arbitrarily and capriciously applied, highly erratic vengeance. More and more people are realizing that arguments justifying a non-existent capital punishment scheme are completely irrelevant.”
In their article, “Lethal Rejection: An Empirical Analysis of the Astonishing Plunge in Death Sentences in the United States from Their Post-Furman Peak,” in the Albany Law Review, David McCord and Talia Roitberg Harmon analyzed 1,665 death-eligible cases nationwide for three years every 10 years: 1994, 2004, and 2014. They conclude that “about half of the decline in death sentences is attributable to decreased death-eligibility, mostly due to the steep decrease in the number of death-eligible murders,” and examine “the evolution in attitudes among prosecutors and sentencers toward deeming fewer among the many death-eligible defendants worthy of death sentences.”
Journalist Radley Balko and Mississippi Innocence Project Director Tucker Carrington have written The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South, which examines criminal cases that medical examiner Steven Hayne and Michael West, a dentist who was considered an expert in the now-debunked science of bite-mark analysis, were involved in in Mississippi that resulted in the wrongful convictions of several defendants. They focus on Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, who were wrongfully convicted of the separate rapes and murders of two little girls in Mississippi, and how that state’s criminal justice system allowed the two “experts” to provide falsely incriminating testimony in murder cases over a span of years. “It details how Hayne, West, the legal system, and the media, among others, often worked against the interest of justice,” the “Nashville Scene” reports.