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Mea CulpaLessons on Law and Regret from U.S. History$
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Steven W. Bender

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781479899623

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479899623.001.0001

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Dehumanizing Criminals

Dehumanizing Criminals

The Monsters of Death Row

Chapter:
(p.101) 7 Dehumanizing Criminals
Source:
Mea Culpa
Author(s):

Steven W. Bender

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479899623.003.0008

Chapter 7 tackles the so-called monsters of death row, those criminals whose crimes are so appalling that we have slated them for execution. The constraint on cruel and unusual punishment in the U.S. Constitution fails to bar all executions, which are authorized as consistent with the rule of law. While over time narrowing the crimes and the defendants for which capital punishment is available, the Supreme Court nonetheless views execution as permissible for some offenses and some offenders, permission several states readily accept. Examining the historical evolution of execution from its racialized application to Southern blacks and its use for crimes less severe than murder, this chapter also surveys how the means of execution evolved to include presumably more humane techniques. Nevertheless, the moral compass of subhumanity predicts we will regret our continued reliance on the death penalty, with or without its evident procedural flaws. The chapter also details our problematic and racialized embrace of Stand Your Ground laws that allow potentially lethal force outside the home in the interest of self-defense, effectively delivering a death penalty for even minor crimes without procedural safeguards.

Keywords:   death penalty, capital punishment, Stand Your Ground laws, subhumanity

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