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The Champion

January-February 2017 , Page 34 

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State Assessments of the Death Penalty: Effective Tools for Reform and for Capital Defenders

By Misty C. Thomas

The death penalty evokes a passionate response from almost every American — both from those who believe it is a moral and appropriate punishment for the most heinous of murders, and those who ardently oppose it as inhumane or irreparably flawed. Passion alone, however, does not typically motivate courts and lawmakers to seriously examine the fairness, accuracy, or appropriateness of the death penalty. Meaningful reform on capital punishment must also be driven by the collection and analysis of data. Many defenders know and use research that has examined the death penalty at the national level,1 but may less often appreciate the impacts and value of single state examinations on capital punishment in their advocacy.

Even some defense lawyers might be surprised by the significant differences in how U.S. states redesigned their death penalty laws post-Furman v. Georgia in their efforts to address the Court’s concerns about arbitrariness. Given this variation, jurisdiction

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