Carol S. Steiker
The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment
This event includes a book signing
March 24, 2017
3:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes Harvard Law School's Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law CAROL S. STEIKER—Faculty Co-Director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program and the second woman to serve as president of the Harvard Law Review—for a discussion of her book, Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment, co-authored with her brother Jordan M. Steiker.
About Courting Death
Unique among Western democracies in refusing to eradicate the death penalty, the United States has attempted instead to reform and rationalize state death penalty practices through federal constitutional law. Courting Death traces the unusual and distinctive history of top-down judicial regulation of capital punishment under the Constitution and its unanticipated consequences for our time.
In the 1960s and 1970s, in the face of widespread abolition of the death penalty around the world, provisions for capital punishment that had long fallen under the purview of the states were challenged in federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court intervened in two landmark decisions, first by constitutionally invalidating the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia (1972) on the grounds that it was capricious and discriminatory, followed four years later by restoring it in Gregg v. Georgia (1976). Since then, by neither retaining capital punishment in unfettered form nor abolishing it outright, the Supreme Court has created a complex regulatory apparatus that has brought executions in many states to a halt, while also failing to address the problems that led the Court to intervene in the first place.
While execution chambers remain active in several states, constitutional regulation has contributed to the death penalty’s new fragility. In the next decade or two, Carol Steiker and Jordan Steiker argue, the fate of the American death penalty is likely to be sealed by this failed judicial experiment. Courting Death illuminates both the promise and pitfalls of constitutional regulation of contentious social issues.
"Courting Death charts precisely the past and present of what has sadly become a uniquely American dilemma and, most importantly, sets out the doctrinal road map that will likely guide Supreme Court Justices in the future. Written by the most respected capital punishment scholars of the day, it is essential reading." —Michael Meltsner, author of Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment
"[The Steikers] provide a clear and comprehensive look at the 40-year modern history of capital punishment in the United States since its reinstatement in 1976 . . . Courting Death provides an excellent survey of the history of capital punishment and the prospects of abolition . . . The Steikers explain technical legal issues with such clarity that their book is highly accessible to lawyer and layperson alike." —Stephen Rohde, The Los Angeles Review of Books
"Carol and Jordan Steiker . . . are the leading contemporary scholars of the death penalty. In Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment they have brilliantly defined—in language accessible to the general reader—the massive dysfunction of the current system and the course that a future Supreme Court could take to do away with it." —Michael Meltsner, The Huffington Post
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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Harvard Book Store's Friday Forum series takes place on Friday afternoons during the academic year as a way to highlight scholarly books in a wide range of fields, with a particular focus on local scholars.
The “Ethics in Your World” series, presented with Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, features leading thinkers taking on tough problems that matter to us all. Learn more about the Safra Center at ethics.harvard.edu.
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