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July 31, 2012

Should there be special trial rules for the death penalty? Why?

As we continue to discuss and debate how criminal trial procedures might be structured if and when a society decides that accuracy should be the primary goal and principal value, consider whether and why the availability for a certain type of punishment (e.g., the death penalty or LWOP) should impact the way procedures are structured.  The US reality, as I explain in detail in my upper-level sentencing course, is that trial procedures are a lot different in most states when a case involves a possible death sentence. 

Helpfully, we can draw insight on ths issue with reference to two notable jurisdictions based on the mid-term papers of Grady and Natalie, who discussed the operation of the death penalty China and Saudi Arabia, respectively.

Below I have uploaded the mid-term papers of Grady and Natalie, and I highly encourage everyone to read these papers closely and then share comments concerning the question in the title of this post.

Download Owen on DP in China

Download Hoover on DP in Saudi Arabia

July 31, 2012 in Course materials and schedule, Preparing for the final, Reflections on class readings | Permalink


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I loved the debate in class today! I think that one interesting point is that it seemed like everyone has a different definition of accuracy, or at least a different opinion on where accuracy should matter (investigation, trial, sentencing etc.).

As for accuracy in regards to plea deals:
I remembering a psychological experiment (I'll try to find it and link it later if possible) that had a participant sit in a room by themselves and be told (by information on a computer) of a crime that had been committed. They were also told that both they, and another participant were innocent. Then, they were given an option of admitting guilt, pointing the finger at the other participant, or saying that they were both innocent. The twist was that they were also informed that the other individual had the same options and there was only one plea deal. That is, if the other person took the deal, the participant would be blamed. So some participants snitched out an innocent person in fear that they would be accused instead. I think that this would be even more pronounced in a real world scenario, especially since the police could lie and say that the other person was about to come in and take the plea deal (when really the other person could have already refused it).

Until I can find/harass my undergraduate professors this study, here's another one:
If you don't want to read it all, I think it can be fairly summed up in this paragraph:
“The results of our study were interesting but discouraging,” Beike said. “With the use of incentives, we should have seen an increase in true secondary confessions. But an incentive actually did the opposite. It brought forward not the reluctant informant, but the opportunistic.”

I'm not saying that I'm totally against plea bargains, but I do find that this information on giving plea bargains to snitches to be interesting in lieu of our discussion on accuracy.

Posted by: Katie | Jul 31, 2012 12:24:56 PM

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