CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Shammas on The Brutality of American Capital Punishment

Michael Shammas (New York University School of Law) has posted Athenian Forgiveness, American Erinyes: The Brutality of American Capital Punishment on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This paper juxtaposes two schemes of capital punishment: (1) the ancient Athenian scheme and (2) the contemporary American one. I attempt to demonstrate that, though moderners assume our civilization has universally improved upon past societies, such chauvinism is misguided. Athenian justice was not obviously crueler than American justice. Exile was an option, escape was habitually encouraged even after sentencing, and incarceration was rarely if ever used. Although class played a formalized role in Athens repugnant to our modern sense of justice, the transparent role class played in antiquity may render Athenian class-differentials less dishonest than the American, where class plays an opaque role.

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