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Proportionality and the Difference Death Makes

William A. Edmundson

Georgia State University College of Law


Criminal Justice Ethics, Vol. 21, pp. 40-43, 2002

Proponents and opponents of the death penalty both typically assume that punishment, in some form or other, is justified, somehow or other, and that just punishment must in some sense be proportionate to the crime. These shared assumptions turn out to embarrass both parties. Proponents have to explain why certain prima facie proportionate punishments, such as torture, are off the table, while death remains, so to speak, on it. Opponents have to explain why their favored alternatives to capital punishment, such as life without parole, are both proportionate to the worst crimes and not as bad as death. The commitment to proportionality makes trouble for both sides of the issue, and its resolution is unlikely until there is a satisfactory general account of proportionality in punishing. Such an account is nowhere in sight.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 11

Keywords: death penalty, capital punishment, punishment, proportionality, sentencing

JEL Classification: K14, K42

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Date posted: June 12, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Edmundson, William A., Proportionality and the Difference Death Makes (2002). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1143532

Contact Information

William A. Edmundson (Contact Author)
Georgia State University College of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 4037
Urban Life Building, Room 402 140 Decatur Street
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
404-413-9167 (Phone)
404-413-9225 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://law.gsu.edu/wedmundson/

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