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Executing Those Who Do Not Kill: A Categorical Approach to Proportional Sentencing

NCJ Number
237012
Journal
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 48 Issue: 3 Dated: Summer 2011 Pages: 1371-1422
Author(s)
Joseph Trigilio; Tracy Casadio
Date Published
2011
Length
52 pages
Annotation
This article presents the case for the United States Supreme Court to reverse its standing regarding offenders eligible for the death penalty who do not kill.
Abstract
At the end of the 20th century, the United States Supreme Court ruled in three separate cases on the proportional use of the death penalty that the death sentence was allowable for a defendant who neither killed nor intended to kill but was a major participant in a felony and acted with reckless disregard for human life, and that a defendant's status as a juvenile offender or a mentally retarded person did not preclude the use of the death penalty. Since then, the Court has reversed itself regarding the use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders and mentally retarded persons, yet it still allows for the use of the death penalty for defendants who have not killed. The first section of the article examines the rulings of the Supreme Court prior to Tison v. Arizona, in which the Court ensured that a defendant's punishment was proportionate to the crime for which he was convicted. The second section of the paper examines the three cases - Tison v. Arizona, Stanford vs. Kentucky, and Penry v. Lynaugh, in which the Court altered the established rules regarding proportionality of punishment, allowing for use of the death penalty in cases that had previously been off limits, such as with juvenile offenders and mentally retarded offenders. The third section of the paper examines the more recent decisions by the Court that have reversed the findings in both Penry and Stanford. The final section of the paper then proposes that the Court should reexamine the proportionality of death sentences of felony-murder accomplices in light of its recent rulings regarding use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders and mentally retarded defendants. Appendix