Death IS Different: An Editorial Introduction to the Theme Issue.

By Richard L. Wiener / Craig Haney / Psychology, Public Policy and Law, on 1 January 2004

Capital punishment has once again become the focus of intense national debate in the United States. There is increasingly widespread public concern over the propriety of state-sanctioned executions and the legal processes by which they are accomplished. Even in political arenas, where little more than a decade ago commentators could quip that “the electric chair has replaced the American flag as your all-purpose campaign symbol,” many elected officials are voicing second thoughts about capital punishment. The American Bar Association (ABA), among other prestigious groups, has called for a moratorium on executions until, at least, the procedural flaws in the legal process through which death sentencing takes place — what the ABA analysts characterized as a “haphazard maze of unfair practices” — have been identified and remedied. Recent assessments of the scope and seriousness of the problems that plague this process suggest that the task of reforming the system of capital punishment will prove to be a daunting one. For example, James Liebman and his colleagues have presented a sobering picture of what they termed a “broken system” in which the outcomes of capital trials — if judged by their fates in the appellate courts — are legally wrong more often than they are right. And at least one judge declared the federal death penalty unconstitutional because it failed to provide sufficient procedural protections to capital defendants.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list United States
  • Themes list Public opinion, Public debate,