Mccleskey V. Kemp: Field Notes from 1977-1991

52 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2018

See all articles by John Charles Boger

John Charles Boger

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: June 18, 2018


This Essay is an expanded version of a keynote address to a Symposium hosted by the Northwestern University School of Law. It examines the handiwork of the Supreme Court in the McCleskey v. Kemp (1987) case and the adverse impact of McCleskey on the subsequent judicial consideration of statistical evidence -- even of widespread racial discrimination -- in the capital and criminal justice systems. As one member of the legal team who brought the McCleskey case, my contribution was to speculate on how and why the Court might have disregarded such meticulously documented and unrebutted patterns of racial disparities in capital sentencing, despite the Justices’ formal condemnation of racial discrimination in principle and their occasional intervention to curb particularly egregious acts of racial injustice. This Essay ends by encouraging social scientists and legal scholars to continue to uncover and oppose patterns of racial discrimination that remain widespread in the administration of criminal justice.

Keywords: Capital Punishment, Racial Discrimination, Statistical Evidence, Supreme Court

JEL Classification: K14, K19, K41

Suggested Citation

Boger, John Charles, Mccleskey V. Kemp: Field Notes from 1977-1991 (June 18, 2018). Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 112, 2018, UNC Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

John Charles Boger (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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