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December 15, 2004

The Peterson case and media coverage of the death penalty

As I suggested here, one silver lining to the spectacle that is the Peterson case may be that the media will examine, more thoughtfulness than usual, the many important and troublesome issues that surround the administration of the death penalty. 

For example, this LA Times editorial raises important questions about the costs of the death penalty, an issue that has been under-examined even in the voluminous academic literature about capital punishment.  (Notably, as detailed here, these costs concerns have captured the attention of New Yorkers, in part because "state and local governments have spent approximately $170 million administering [the NY capital] statute [and yet not] a single person has been executed in New York since the law's enactment.")

And this San Francisco Gate article gives considerable attention to the challenges surrounding the "recruitment of lawyers for death penalty appeals."  (The article also includes some interesting quotes from Chief Justice Ronald George of the California Supreme Court.)  This AP story also notes the lawyer issue, while also probing whether appellate realities might influence jury decision-making in capital cases.

Of course, I cannot follow, let alone give a positive spin, to all the media coverage of the Peterson case.  (Howard Bashman has collected an amazing array of the articles from this week here.)  But I can suggest that those interested in a (pre-Peterson) scholarly examination of the relationship between the media and the death penalty should be sure to read DePaul Professor Susan Bandes's article, Fear Factor: The Role of Media in Covering and Shaping the Death Penalty, which appeared in last Spring's Issue of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law.

December 15, 2004 at 09:39 PM | Permalink

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