‘Like Snow [Falling] on a Branch…’: International Law Influences on Death Penalty Decisions and Debates in the United States

47 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2010  

Russell G. Murphy

Suffolk University Law School

Eric Carlson

Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP

Date Written: June 15, 2010

Abstract

In the past few years, significant changes have occurred in American capital punishment law. This article explores how these changes have been significantly, but unevenly, influenced by international law, foreign court decisions, and global political actions. The article begins with a description of basic Eighth Amendment principles that govern the constitutionality of capital punishment. It goes on to provide foundational information on death penalty practices in the United States and the global community, including specific provisions of international law that prohibit or restrict capital punishment. The public debate over the propriety of reliance on international law that has been occurring among Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court is then described. The article concludes with examples of international law and foreign court decisions that have directly influenced opinions of the Justices in death penalty cases. Commentary is provided on ways in which international law can continue to impact American death penalty policies and practices.

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Russell G. and Carlson, Eric, ‘Like Snow [Falling] on a Branch…’: International Law Influences on Death Penalty Decisions and Debates in the United States (June 15, 2010). Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Vol. 38, p. 115, 2009; Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 10-27. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1625468

Russell G. Murphy (Contact Author)

Suffolk University Law School ( email )

120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

Eric Carlson

Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP ( email )

Dashwood, 69 Old Broad Street
London, EC2M 1QS
United Kingdom

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