An Analysis of Supreme Court Opinions Regarding the Death Penalty

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Matthew B. Robinson Ph.D., Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: This paper examines opinions by Supreme Court justices of the most significant death penalty cases of the 1970s and 1980s [i.e., Furman v. Georgia (1972), Gregg v. Georgia (1976), Woodson v. North Carolina (1976), and McCleskey v. Kemp (1987)]. We seek to determine: 1) what main justifications were used by justices to support their own opinions; 2) how inconsistent over these cases were justices in issuing their opinions; and 3) what factors led to changes in opinions across time. We examine three types of inconsistency: First, issuing an opinion that is contradictory to opinions issued in earlier cases (e.g., a justice rules in favor of capital punishment in one case and then against it in another, or vice versa); Second, issuing an opinion that appears to be contradictory to statements made in written opinions in earlier cases (e.g., a justice votes in a way opposite to the principles he or she has put forth in previous cases); and Third, ruling in a way that appears to violate a precedent or rule of law. We seek to explain such inconsistencies to illuminate why capital punishment is still legal despite numerous problems with its application. It is these cases that best illustrate why capital punishment persists.

Additional Information

Robinson, Matthew B., and Kathleen M. Simon (2006), Logical and Consistent? An Analysis of Supreme Court Opinions Regarding the Death Penalty. Justice Policy Journal 3(1): 1-59.
Language: English
Date: 2006

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