Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Death Penalty Mitigation Specialist; Death Penalty Stories

Jeffrey Toobin profiles Danalynn Recer, a lawyer who specializes in death penalty mitigation in Texas: The Mitigator, The New Yorker, May 9, 2011, at 32.

A greater emphasis on mitigation evidence is one factor in the decline of death sentences in recent years:

The expectations for capital defense practice have also changed over the past twenty years, and it has become less common (and less acceptable) for capital defense lawyers to devote their energies primarily or exclusively to the guilt-innocence phase of capital trials. Capital trial lawyers are more aware of the importance of developing and presenting mitigating evidence and of the need to embrace trial strategies that weave the defense mitigation theory into the guilt-innocence phase of the proceedings. The emergence of "mitigation specialists" as a distinct class of capital trial participants, who coordinate the investigation and presentation of a defendant's family, social, psychological and psychiatric history, represents a marked departure from capital litigation in the immediate post-Furman era; during that period, "generalist" criminal defense lawyers would try capital cases without sufficient attention to the distinctive need to focus their energies toward the fundamental moral question of life-or-death rather than merely to challenge the state's burden of proof on the underlying offense. The changes in expectations regarding the duties of capital trial counsel are reflected in the Court's recent decisions finding ineffective assistance of counsel . . ..
John H. Blume & Jordan M. Steiker, Introduction, in Death Penalty Stories 10 (John H. Blume & Jordan M. Steiker eds., 2009).

Death Penalty Stories  is a fascinating collection of thoughtful and research-packed essays on landmark cases in U.S. death penalty law. Chapters are:
  • Deborah Denno, When Willie Francis Died: The "Disturbing" Story Behind One of the Eighth Amendment's Most Enduring Standards of Risk
  • Carol S. Steiker, Furman v. Georgia: Not an End, but a Beginning 
  • Hugo Adam Bedau, Gregg v. Georgia and Allied Cases: Protecting the Death Penalty from Abolition
  • Sheri Lynn Johnson, Coker v. Georgia: Of Rape, Race, and Burying the Past
  • John H. Blume, Gilmore v. Utah: The Persistent Problem of "Volunteers" 
  • David C. Baldus et al., McCleskey v. Kemp: Denial Avoidance, and the Legitimization of Racial Discrimination in the Administration of the Death Penalty
  • Jordan M. Steiker, Penry v. Lynaugh: The Hazards of Predicting the Future
  • Austin Sarat, The Story of Payne v. Tennessee: Victims Triumphant 
  • David Bruck, Simmons v. South Carolina and the Myth of Early Release
  • David R. Dow, Bell v. Cone: The Fatal Consequences of Incomplete Failure 
  • Scott W. Howe, Roper v. Simmons: Abolishing the Death Penalty for Juvenile Offenders in the Wake of International Consensus
  • Joseph L. Hoffmann,  House v. Bell and the Death of Innocence
I recommend it highly.

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