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Forty Years of Death: The Past, Present, and Future of the Death Penalty in South Carolina (Or Still Arbitrary after All These Years)

72 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2016 Last revised: 23 Nov 2016

John H. Blume III

Cornell Law School

Lindsey S. Vann

Justice 360

Date Written: February 19, 2016

Abstract

Forty years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States deemed constitutional new death penalty laws intended to minimize the arbitrariness which led the Court to invalidate all capital sentencing statutes four years earlier in Furman v. Georgia. Over the last four decades the Court has — time and again — attempted to regulate the “machinery of death.” Looking back over the Court’s work, many observers, including two current Supreme Court justices, have questioned whether the modern death penalty has lived up to expectations set by the Court in the 1970s or if, despite 40 years of labor, the American death penalty continues to be administered in an unconstitutionally arbitrary manner. This Article presents data from South Carolina’s forty-year experiment with capital punishment and concludes that the administration of the death penalty in that state is still riddled with error and infected with racial and gender bias. It is — in short — still arbitrary after all these years. The authors maintain that the only true cure it to abolish South Carolina’s death penalty, although they do argue that lesser steps including additional safeguards and procedure may limit, but will not eliminate, some of the arbitrariness and bias which are present in the current imposition of South Carolina’s most extreme punishment.

Keywords: Capital punishment, Death penalty, Criminal Procedure

Suggested Citation

Blume, John H. and Vann, Lindsey S., Forty Years of Death: The Past, Present, and Future of the Death Penalty in South Carolina (Or Still Arbitrary after All These Years) (February 19, 2016). Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2016, Forthcoming; Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 16-8. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2734895 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2734895

John H. Blume III (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Lindsey S. Vann

Justice 360 ( email )

Columbia, SC
United States

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