Special Issue "The Death Penalty in the 21st Century"

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A special issue of Laws (ISSN 2075-471X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2013)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Dennis R. Longmire (Website)

College of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341-2296, USA
Fax: +1 936 294 1693
Interests: capital punishment; public perceptions of crime, criminality and criminal justice; ethics and professionalism in criminal justice

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue of Laws, “The Death Penalty in the 21st Century” focuses on the most severe sanction available in modern societies, the penalty of death. This issue will include writings focusing on the death penalty from an international human rights perspective. Much has been written about particular legal, constitutional, and public policy issues associated with the death penalty from both national and local legal perspectives. Little scholarship has focused on what is the most severe legal sanction available in modern societies, the death penalty, from a broad human rights perspective. Authors working on articles focusing on human rights concerns relevant to the death penalty are encouraged to contribute to this issue. Works focusing on human rights at the most local as well as most general levels are invited. Case studies, multi-national cross-sectional analysis of data relevant to the death penalty, and legal case briefs focusing on human rights associated with the death penalty are welcome.

Prof. Dr. Dennis R. Longmire
Guest Editor

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Laws is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 300 CHF (Swiss Francs). English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.

Keywords

  • death penalty
  • capital punishment
  • human rights
  • morality
  • international perspectives
  • ethics
  • law

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle The Dog that Stopped Barking: Mass Legal Executions in 21st Century America
Laws 2014, 3(1), 153-162; doi:10.3390/laws3010153
Received: 30 December 2013 / Revised: 21 February 2014 / Accepted: 21 February 2014 / Published: 24 February 2014
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Abstract
During the first two centuries of European colonization of what is now the United States, executions for a variety of offenses relatively frequently involved mass executions, that is, the execution for the same criminal incident of four or more persons. By the [...] Read more.
During the first two centuries of European colonization of what is now the United States, executions for a variety of offenses relatively frequently involved mass executions, that is, the execution for the same criminal incident of four or more persons. By the time of American independence, some of those crimes had largely ceased to exist or to elicit such punishment, like witchcraft and piracy. However, the punishment of slaves and Indians kept the percentage of executed persons involved in mass executions significant, if not large. During the last quarter of the 19th and first six decades of the 20th century, mass legal executions diminished as a percentage and were largely limited to punishing robbery-related homicides, including felony-homicides of conspirators. Throughout that period, the end of mass executions for a particular crime presaged the end of all executions for that offense, and the last mass legal execution occurred in 1960. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Death Penalty in the 21st Century)
Open AccessArticle Death Row Confinement and the Meaning of Last Words
Laws 2014, 3(1), 141-152; doi:10.3390/laws3010141
Received: 20 January 2014 / Revised: 1 February 2014 / Accepted: 7 February 2014 / Published: 17 February 2014
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Abstract
Life under sentence of death can be a transformative process. One measure of this transformation can be found in last words, which often highlight the humanity of condemned prisoners on the threshold of execution, in sharp contrast to popular conceptions of these [...] Read more.
Life under sentence of death can be a transformative process. One measure of this transformation can be found in last words, which often highlight the humanity of condemned prisoners on the threshold of execution, in sharp contrast to popular conceptions of these prisoners as evil, remorseless, and irredeemable. Our reading of last words suggests that the transformation process can be best understood by examining the dominant contours of the death row experience, the most recent formative experience in the lives of condemned prisoners before they are put to death. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Death Penalty in the 21st Century)
Open AccessArticle Is the Modern American Death Penalty a Fatal Lottery? Texas as a Conservative Test
Laws 2014, 3(1), 85-105; doi:10.3390/laws3010085
Received: 24 December 2013 / Revised: 17 January 2014 / Accepted: 20 January 2014 / Published: 22 January 2014
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Abstract
In Furman v. Georgia (1972), the Supreme Court was presented with data indicating that 15% to 20% of death-eligible defendants were actually sentenced to death. Based on such a negligible death sentence rate, some Justices concluded that the imposition of death was [...] Read more.
In Furman v. Georgia (1972), the Supreme Court was presented with data indicating that 15% to 20% of death-eligible defendants were actually sentenced to death. Based on such a negligible death sentence rate, some Justices concluded that the imposition of death was random and capricious—a fatal lottery. Later, the Court assumed in Gregg v. Georgia (1976) that guided discretion statutes would eliminate the constitutional infirmities identified in Furman: If state legislatures narrowed the pool of death-eligible defendants to the “worst of the worst” then most would be sentenced to death, eliminating numerical arbitrariness. However, recent research suggests that numerical arbitrariness remains, as the death sentence rate falls below the Furman threshold in California (11%), Connecticut (4%), and Colorado (less than 1%). The current research estimates the death sentence rate in Texas. Interestingly, Texas provides a conservative test. In contrast to most states, the Texas statute does not include broad aggravators that substantially enlarge the pool of death-eligible defendants and therefore depress the death sentence rate. Nonetheless, the death sentence rate in Texas during the period from 2006 to 2010 ranges from 3% to 6% (depending on assumptions made about the data). The same pattern holds true in the key counties that send the largest number of defendants to death row: Harris (Houston), Dallas (Dallas), Tarrant (Fort Worth and Arlington), and Bexar (San Antonio). Thus, the data suggest that Texas can be added to the list of states in which capital punishment is unconstitutional as administered. If the death sentence rate in Texas runs afoul of the Furman principle then the prognosis for other states is not encouraging. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Death Penalty in the 21st Century)
Open AccessArticle The Use of the Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking in the United States, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand: A Comparative Legal Analysis
Laws 2013, 2(2), 115-149; doi:10.3390/laws2020115
Received: 26 March 2013 / Revised: 27 May 2013 / Accepted: 28 May 2013 / Published: 5 June 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (167 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article assesses the use of capital punishment for drug trafficking and related crimes from a comparative perspective. Domestic narcotics legislation, as well as important drug trafficking cases in four Southeast Asian nations (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand) are examined in-depth and [...] Read more.
This article assesses the use of capital punishment for drug trafficking and related crimes from a comparative perspective. Domestic narcotics legislation, as well as important drug trafficking cases in four Southeast Asian nations (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand) are examined in-depth and compared to the United States, which plays an important role in eradicating global drug-related problems. This article contends that the use of capital punishment is disproportionate to the gravity of drug-related offenses and that international drug control and enforcement treaties never suggested using such sanctions to deter crime. Fortunately, four Southeast Asian countries in this study, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, currently realize this disproportionality and have become reluctant to carry out executions for drug trafficking; even though they continue to sentence a large number of drug-related offenders to death annually, they do not actually carry out these executions. Future research related to this topic is also recommended in this article. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Death Penalty in the 21st Century)
Open AccessArticle The Imposition of the Death Penalty on Mexican Nationals in the United States and the Cultural, Legal and Political Context
Laws 2013, 2(1), 33-50; doi:10.3390/laws2010033
Received: 5 February 2013 / Revised: 7 March 2013 / Accepted: 11 March 2013 / Published: 20 March 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (81 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper reviews death penalty perspectives from the United States, Mexico and international law. The United States practices the death penalty on not only its citizens, but those of other nations who commit capital crimes. Mexico is a death penalty abolitionist state [...] Read more.
This paper reviews death penalty perspectives from the United States, Mexico and international law. The United States practices the death penalty on not only its citizens, but those of other nations who commit capital crimes. Mexico is a death penalty abolitionist state that takes significant issue with the United States over executing Mexican nationals. The paper analyzes the cultural, legal and political conflict between the two countries surrounding the application of the death penalty on Mexican nationals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Death Penalty in the 21st Century)

Other

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Open AccessCreative Death House Desiderata: A Hunger for Justice, Unsated
Laws 2014, 3(2), 208-219; doi:10.3390/laws3020208
Received: 30 March 2014 / Revised: 22 April 2014 / Accepted: 23 April 2014 / Published: 25 April 2014
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Abstract
The death penalty lives on in America, with some 1350 prisoners put to death since 1976, when the modern American death penalty was reborn. Most prisoners get a last meal of their choice, though that choice is constrained by cost and, often, [...] Read more.
The death penalty lives on in America, with some 1350 prisoners put to death since 1976, when the modern American death penalty was reborn. Most prisoners get a last meal of their choice, though that choice is constrained by cost and, often, the stock in the prison kitchen. Last meals can be thought of as brief moments of autonomy in a relentlessly dehumanizing execution process. They also entail a distinctive cruelty. At their lowest point, prisoners seek comfort food but are never comforted. This meal is no entre to a relationship, but instead a recipe for abandonment. Dignity is nowhere to be found on the death house menu. Yet hope lingers, even here; human beings, it seems, cannot live or die without hope. Justice, the most profound human hunger, goes unsated by design. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Death Penalty in the 21st Century)
Open AccessEssay Death Row Confessions and the Last Meal Test of Innocence
Laws 2014, 3(1), 1-11; doi:10.3390/laws3010001
Received: 28 October 2013 / Revised: 23 November 2013 / Accepted: 20 December 2013 / Published: 30 December 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (190 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Post hoc analyses of Rector v. Arkansas have regularly highlighted that the defendant requested that part of his last meal be saved so that he could it eat later. While the observation is typically raised as part of arguments that Rector was [...] Read more.
Post hoc analyses of Rector v. Arkansas have regularly highlighted that the defendant requested that part of his last meal be saved so that he could it eat later. While the observation is typically raised as part of arguments that Rector was incompetent and unfit for execution, the more basic fact is that commentators have drawn important inferences about Rector’s mental state from how he treated his last meal. In this essay, we draw upon multiple disciplines in order to apply the same inferential logic to a much broader sample and explore the question of whether traditionally customized last meals might offer signals of defendants’ guilt or innocence. To investigate this, the content of last-meal requests and last words reported for people executed in the United States during a recent five-year period were examined. Consistent with the idea that declination of the last meal is equivalent to a signal of (self-perceived) innocence, those who denied guilt were 2.7 times as likely to decline a last meal than people who admitted guilt (29% versus 8%). Consistent with the complementary theory that people who admit guilt are relatively more “at peace” with their sentence, these individuals requested 34% more calories of food than the rest of the sample (2786 versus 2085 calories). A third finding is that those who denied guilt also tended to eat significantly fewer brand-name food items. Previous discussions of last meals have often lacked quantitative measurements; however, this systematic analysis shows that last meal requests offer windows into self-perceived or self-proclaimed innocence. Knowing one’s last meal request and one’s last words can provide valuable new variables for retrospectively assessing the processes that led to past executions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Death Penalty in the 21st Century)

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