Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1464849
 


 



Contradiction, Coherence, and Guided Discretion in the Supreme Court's Capital Sentencing Jurisprudence


Mary Sigler


Arizona State University - College of Law

2003

American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 40, p. 1151, 2003

Abstract:     
In the wake of Furman v. Georgia in 1972, many states revised their capital sentencing statutes to address the problem of arbitrary sentencing. In a series of decisions reviewing the new statutes, the Supreme Court determined that asymmetrical 'guided discretion' strikes the appropriate balance between consistency and individualized consideration in capital sentencing. On this approach, legislatures specify by statute the factors relevant to determining whether a defendant deserves the death penalty, but juries must be free to consider any factor that might militate in favor of a lesser sentence. At least two Supreme Court justices have characterized guided discretion as a contradiction in terms. Justice Antonin Scalia argued that open-ended mitigation destroys any hope of sentencing consistency, is not a constitutional requirement, and therefore should be abandoned by the Court. Justice Harry Blackmun argued that consistency and individuation are constitutional commitments that can neither be reconciled nor abandoned, so the Court should invalidate the death penalty as unworkable. This essay explores the possibility that the so-called contradiction in capital sentencing can be reconciled in terms of several well-established values of legal liberalism. Although the Supreme Court has failed to articulate a coherent rationale for its approach to capital punishment, this does not establish that no such rationale is available.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

Keywords: Death penalty, guided discretion

Accepted Paper Series





Download This Paper

Date posted: August 31, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Sigler, Mary, Contradiction, Coherence, and Guided Discretion in the Supreme Court's Capital Sentencing Jurisprudence (2003). American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 40, p. 1151, 2003. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1464849

Contact Information

Mary Sigler (Contact Author)
Arizona State University - College of Law ( email )
Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 465
Downloads: 29

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo5 in 0.266 seconds