ATHENIAN FORGIVENESS, AMERICAN ERINYES: Capital Punishment's Brutal American Exceptionalism

17 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2020 Last revised: 11 Jun 2021

See all articles by Michael Shammas

Michael Shammas

Tulane University School of Law; Harvard Law School; Duke University; The Civil Jury Project; U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; U.S. District Court for the District of Maine

Date Written: December 28, 2020

Abstract

This paper juxtaposes two schemes of capital punishment: (1) the ancient Athenian scheme and (2) the contemporary American one. I attempt to demonstrate that, though moderners assume our civilization has universally improved upon past societies, such chauvinism is misguided. Athenian justice was not obviously crueler than American justice. Exile was an option, escape was habitually encouraged even after sentencing, and incarceration was rarely if ever used. Although class played a formalized role in Athens repugnant to our modern sense of justice, the transparent role class played in antiquity may render Athenian class-differentials less dishonest than the American, where class plays an opaque role.

Keywords: trial of socrates, plato, the apology, capital punishment, eighth amendment, prieto v. clarke, cruel and unusual punishment, apotympanismos, kakourgoi, ancient law, solitary confinement, athenian criminal law, death row, michael morton, wrongful convictions, incapacitation, exile, mass incarceration

Suggested Citation

Shammas, Michael, ATHENIAN FORGIVENESS, AMERICAN ERINYES: Capital Punishment's Brutal American Exceptionalism (December 28, 2020). Michael Shammas, Athenian Forgiveness, American Erinyes: Capital Punishment’s Brutal American Exceptionalism, 48 AM. J. CRIM. L. 102 (2021). , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3549604 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3549604

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