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January 28, 2007

Suggesting topics for capital commentary

I am trying an innovate approach to a final assignment in my Death Penalty Course this semester.  In lieu of a final exam, each student is required to prepare a “white paper” directed to a specific (real) decision-making official in a specific (real) jurisdiction.  As I explain here, my hope is that students will produce documents that not only justify blog posting, but also could be sent directly to officials in the jurisdiction being examined.

As noted in this post at my class blog, students this week have to decide select jurisdictions to examine.  There are, of course, many obvious current choices; at least a dozen states are in the midst of active and robust death penalty debates.  But I suspect readers of this blog might have some helpful and distinctive ideas about jurisdictions my students should examine.  Student-friendly comments to this post (or at my class blog) would be greatly appreciated.

January 28, 2007 at 08:15 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Doug, what a great idea for a student assignment! I have a suggestion. What about a student preparing a memorandum to submit to the Conference of Superior Court Judges in North Carolina on modifications of state death penalty procedures in light of Apprendi/Ring/Blakely? This is completely uncharted territory, but one which I believe is loaded with possibilites for revolutionary change in the field of capital litigation.

For example,

1. What does the verdict sheet look like in capital cases post-Ring? Is Scalia's "murder simpliciter" a lesser included offense on the same verdict sheet as "murder with one or more aggravating circumstances"? Or do we continue with two verdict sheets? See Scalia's discussion in Sattazahan v Penn.

2. Do the Rules of Evidence now apply to aggravator determination but not mitigator determination because the determination of one ag is an element of a greater substantive offense?

3.What about the application of the offense/offender characteristic distinction to capital litigation? In other words, can a prior convition of violence still be used as an aggravator which can make a defendant eligible for death by convicting him of the greater offense of Aggravated First Degree Murder?

There are many other practical issues which will arise in each trial of a capital case which have not been delved into by our Superior Court judges and are not being aggressively litigated. I have notions about each of the above questions , and more, which I won't mention in case some student wants to struggle with this topic unencumbered by some preconceptions from me.

Great idea, Doug, and I think could result in an extraordinarily useful document for our Judges to employ as they preside over the trial of these complicated cases.

Bruce

Posted by: bruce cunningham | Jan 28, 2007 9:34:26 AM

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Posted by: DFDF | Jul 29, 2007 1:13:33 AM

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