Class 13: Innocence, Clemency, Execution, & Perspectives

This class first examines the question of innocent people being sentenced to death and, in some instances executed. Next, we turn to the issue of clemency and the vast power of the executive to grant or withhold clemency. Then we examine executions – how they are carried out and the questions surrounding lethal injection and botched executions. Finally, Prof. Bright reviews some different perspectives on the death penalty in America. He talks about why some people oppose it, why some people support it, and where we stand in our long national experiment with the ultimate penalty.

A. Innocence

A number of people sentenced to death have been exonerated and released. There are substantial questions about the innocence of others who were executed. This segment examines the factors that lead to conviction of the innocent.


Innocence (PDF), including:

  • Glenn Ford Exonerated After 30 Years on Death Row
  • The Case of Carlos DeLuna
  • Procedural Barriers to Issues of Innocence
  • Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390 (1993)
  • Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298 (1995), and House v. Bell, 547 U.S. 518 (2006)
  • Sawyer v. Whitley, 505 U.S. 333, 350 (1992)
  • Standards Governing a Second Habeas Corpus Petition (Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
  • 28 U.S.C. § 2244
  • Seeking Supreme Court Review Despite the Statute
  • Kansas v. Marsh, 548 U.S. 163 (2006) (Souter, J., dissenting), (Scalia, J., concurring)
  • Innocence – Further Reading
Recommended Reading: 

B. Clemency

Some death sentences are commuted to life imprisonment or another sentence. This segment examines the power of the executive in exercising the commutation power and the factors that often influence the clemency decision.


Clemency/Execution (PDF), including:

  • Introduction
  • Ohio Adult Parole Authority v. Woodard, 523 U.S. 272 (1998)
  • Right to Counsel in Capital Clemency Cases
  • Clemency in Texas
  • Posthumous Pardons
  • Executive Order by Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. Granting Pardon to Joe Arridy
Recommended Reading:

C. Execution

States have encountered many problems in using lethal drugs to bring about executions from obtaining the drugs to the qualifications of those who administer them. After a number of botched executions, some states made all information about carrying out executions secret. This segment reviews the problems and the legal issues presented by them.


Execution portion of Clemency/Execution PDF, including:

  • Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35 (2008)
  • Ohio’s Attempt to Execute Romell Broom, Sept. 15, 2009
  • The Search for a Solution and More Botched Executions
Recommended Reading:


D. Perspectives

This segment reviews perspectives of Supreme Court justices, governors, commentators and others about how well the death penalty has worked since the Supreme Court allowed its resumption in 1976.


Perspectives (PDF), including:

  • Callins v. Collins, 510 U.S. 1141 (1994) (Blackmun, J., dissenting from the denial of certiorari; and Scalia, J., concurring in the denial of certiorari)
  • Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35 (2008) (Stevens, J., concurring, and Scalia, J., concurring)
  • Edward G. Rendell’s Message to the Pennsylvania Legislature, Jan. 14, 2011
  • Governors call a Halt to Executions in Oregon, Colorado and Washington
  • Wiles v. Bagley, 561 F.3d 636 (6th Cir. 2009) (Martin, J., concurring)
Recommended Reading:

Restorative Justice





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