Assignment 2

  • 1,600 - 1,900 words
  • First draft due, in class, on Tuesday, November 5 (bring THREE COPIES)
  • Second draft due Tuesday, November 12

Since the first paper, you’ve now done a lot more reading, a lot more thinking, and a lot more writing – formal and informal – around issues pertinent to the death penalty. So for your second paper, you have more options as to topics and approaches. Here are a few I’d suggest:

  • Write a paper in which you formalize your argument for or against capital punishment generally. Try to anticipate the arguments against your position, and try to treat those arguments as valid, even as you show us why you disagree with them. Use whatever credible sources you have available – most of which you can find in Debating the Death Penalty – and make your argument as deep and as thoughtful as you can. (For this option it might be helpful first to review all of the arguments that you and your classmates have made online in order to conceptualize your own position and the potential arguments counter to it.)
  • Write a paper in which you examine the effect of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 on the practice of capital punishment and the process of judicial review in capital cases. This will require a little research, but you can start with Rheinhardt’s “Anatomy of an Execution.”
  • Write a paper on Thompson v. Calderon in which you demonstrate, and then examine, the implications of the “miscarriage of justice” standard applied by the U.S. Supreme Court in its final decision on the case.
  • Write a paper, using some combination of Thompson, Summerlin and Hayes, to discuss the way the Supreme Court’s currently balances procedural rules against more fundamental due process concerns. (For this one, you’ll probably also want to familiarize yourself with Teague, since that’s the case that establishes the current test.)
  • Write a paper in which you examine the impact of the decision in Furman v. Georgia on capital punishment since 1972. (This also might require some research.)
  • Write a paper in which you compare the ruling in Enmund v. Florida with that in Tison v. Arizona, and then examine the implications of felony murder in capital cases.
  • Choose a landmark capital case – say, Furman (unconstitutional as applied) or Enmund (felony murder), or Tison (felony murder again) or Coker v. Georgia (rape as a capital offense) – and then do two thing: first, walk us through the court’s reasoning in its decision; then, discuss how the court’s decision in that landmark case affected (or could affect) later capital cases.

There are about a million more potential topics – but these prompts should at least give you an idea of the kinds of motivating questions that might work. Just try not to let the thing get too big on you: remember, it’s a 6‐page paper. Go deep instead of broad.

Last modified: Tuesday, October 29, 2013, 10:13 AM