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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Tuesday, January 3, 2006

RIP, Pittsburgh CrimProf Welsh S. White

One of the country's leading authorities on capital punishment and police interrogations, Welsh S. White of Pittsburgh, died on December 31st.   Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Professor White, his work greatly influenced my own scholarship relating to interrogations, and I, along with many others, consider him to be one of the leading confessions scholars in the country.  Here is the press release from the law school:

Welsh White, Bessie McKee Walthour Endowed Chair and professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, died Dec. 31. A leading national authority on the death penalty, White began teaching at Pitt in 1968. He taught such courses as criminal law, criminal procedure, and evidence.

“Welsh White was widely respected as one of the nation's leading experts on the death penalty and was one of the most distinguished faculty members in the long history of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, a former dean of Pitt's School of Law. “His carefully crafted scholarly work helped change views of the death penalty and the way that it is administered. He also was a devoted teacher, who was beloved by his students, and a committed colleague, who always found time to serve as a thoughtful and caring mentor. He will be sorely missed, both for his professional contributions and for his warm personal touch.”

White, 65, was the author of three books on capital punishment, among them The Death Penalty in the Nineties: An Examination of the Modern System of Capital Punishment (University of Michigan Press, 1991), as well as numerous essays and scholarly articles on evidence and criminal procedure. His scholarly articles have appeared in the Columbia Law Review, Michigan Law Review, and Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Review, among others.

White spent the last 10 years studying police interrogations and confessions. In his book Miranda's Waning Protections: Police Interrogation Practices after Dickerson (University of Michigan Press, 2001), White examined Miranda-the U.S. Supreme Court case that established rights of suspects upon arrest-and other Supreme Court confession cases, emphasizing the conflict between law enforcement and civil liberties. He had recently completed work on a new book, Litigating in the Shadow of Death: Defense Attorneys in Capital Cases, which will be published by the University of Michigan Press early in 2006; this book already won praise from Yale Kamisar, professor of law at the University of San Diego, as “a most illuminating book by a splendid writer and an eminent critic of the capital punishment system.”

Prior to joining Pitt's law faculty, White practiced law with the Philadelphia firm of White and Williams, which was founded by his grandfather. He also worked in the Philadelphia District Attorney's office.

While teaching full-time in Pitt's law school, White represented or assisted in the representation of indigent defendants, particularly in capital cases.

White received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University in 1962 and the Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1965.

Here is his obituary from the paper in Pittsburgh.  As Pittsburgh CrimProf John Parry put it, "It is a real loss on many levels."  Parry also noted that "White's last book--on representing defendants in capital murder cases -- will be published any day now by Michigan.  A wonderful book and a fitting memorial to his career."  [Mark Godsey]

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