Courting Abolition (Book Review)

50 Pages Posted: 12 May 2017 Last revised: 14 May 2017

Deborah W. Denno

Fordham University School of Law

Date Written: May 10, 2017


This Review of Courting Death offers a different take on two of Professor Carol Steiker and Professor Jordan Steiker's major themes: (1) the tension between effecting meaningful reform and legitimatizing legal façades, and (2) the future of the American death penalty. The Review argues several points, one being that the Model Penal Code may have had a larger pre-Furman impact than the Steikers acknowledge. In addition, the Review expands on some key contributors to the death penalty’s decline that may have been obscured by the all-encompassing nature of the Steikers’ regulation argument — for example, the emergence of unforeseeable exogenous variables (similar to the introduction of DNA evidence into criminal trials in the 1980s), as well as pressure points that exist largely outside of the constitutional regulatory framework, such as lethal injection litigation. Despite these influences, the Review finds the Steikers’ prediction — that, when abolition seems right, it will come by way of a “Furman II” Supreme Court decision — to readily comport with the death penalty’s trajectory over the last fifty years.

Keywords: death penalty, federal regulation, capital punishment, abolition, race, criminal justice

Suggested Citation

Denno, Deborah W., Courting Abolition (Book Review) (May 10, 2017). Harvard Law Review, Vol. 130, pp. 1827-76, 2017. Available at SSRN:

Deborah W. Denno (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

Fordham University School of Law
150 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States
212-636-6868 (Phone)
212-636-6899 (Fax)

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