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The Road to Abolition?The Future of Capital Punishment in the United States$
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Charles J. Jr. Ogletree and Austin Sarat

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780814762172

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814762172.001.0001

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Blinded by Science on the Road to Abolition?

Blinded by Science on the Road to Abolition?

(p.46) 2 Blinded by Science on the Road to Abolition?
The Road to Abolition?

Simon A. Cole

Jay D. Aronson

NYU Press

This chapter examines the role of science in arguments calling for the abolition of the death penalty. It discusses three important milestones of the recent abolitionist struggle in which the “cultural authority of science” has been instrumental: the “innocence revolution” brought about by DNA evidence and subsequent exonerations; the recent (but temporary) de facto moratorium on executions associated with the constitutional challenge to lethal injection protocols; and what Justice Antonin Scalia has called the “incremental abolition” of the death penalty, referring to efforts to win favorable Supreme Court judgments for categorical exemptions from the death penalty. The three court cases discussed in this chapter highlight rhetorical appeals to the authority of science along the road to abolition. The chapter also emphasizes the usefulness of science in the effort to shift public opinion against capital punishment, even as it argues that science alone is not enough to turn the abolition of death penalty to reality.

Keywords:   science, death penalty, innocence revolution, DNA evidence, execution, lethal injection, incremental abolition, court cases, capital punishment, abolition of death penalty

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