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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Watch Video of Va. CrimProf Stephen Smith's Recent Lecture on Capital Punishment

From the Virginia Law website:  In states that have capital punishment, institutional pressures in the justice system skew the outcome in death penalty cases toward conviction and execution, law professor Stephen Smith said in lunch remarks to the Board of Trustees and Alumni Council meeting Nov. 4. Better funding for indigent defense and higher standards of effective representation for the accused would likely result in more life sentences and make execution more rare. “Mending it could end it,” Smith said.  “Supporters of the death penalty think that our current system has elaborate procedural protections and bends over backwards to make every effort to see that those who get the death penalty are society’s worst murderers, and that if you get the death penalty you really deserve it,” he said.  But the reality is that the United States has “a highly politicized system” that also results in certain types of defendants, typically those unlike jurors, being sorted toward execution.  If the Supreme Court uses constitutional arguments to regulate the death penalty “through a procedural approach that ignores the underlying political reality, the effort is doomed,” Smith said, acknowledging that certain procedural reforms the Court could institute would lead to a fairer death penalty.  Watch a video of his talk here.  [Mark Godsey]

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