Will the Death Penalty Ever Die?

The law professors Carol S. Steiker and Jordan M. Steiker have written a revealing book about the history of the death penalty in the US and, in particular, the continued difficulties the Supreme Court has had in attempting to regulate capital punishment so that it conforms to constitutional standards. If I have a criticism of their otherwise trenchant account, it is of their failure to give more than passing attention to the moral outrage that provides much of the emotional support for the death penalty—outrage felt not only by the family and friends of a murder victim, but also by the many empathetic members of the public who, having learned the brutal facts of the murder, feel strongly that the murderer has forfeited his own right to live.

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