Academic Article

American Death Penalty Exceptionalism, Then and Now

By Jordan Steiker, California Western International Law Journal , on 1 February 2024

Published in October 2023.

The most commonly observed fact of American capital punishment is its present outlier status: the United States (U.S.) is the only developed Western democracy that retains the death penalty, and it does so not simply as a matter of law, but as a matter of practice, conducting numerous executions every year. This “exceptionalism” with respect to the death penalty is noteworthy, but focusing on present-day American retention obscures many additional aspects of American death penalty exceptionalism. This Keynote will trace several ways in which the American death penalty was an outlier at its founding and throughout its subsequent history, as well as the varied aspects of its exceptionalism today. I will conclude by predicting that U.S. exceptionalism will soon come to an end–with an “exceptional” form of death penalty abolition, traceable to the distinctive path of the American death penalty

  • Document type Academic Article
  • Countries list United States