Evolutionary History: The Changing Purposes for Capital Punishment

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Book Chapter

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This chapter explores how the principles of retribution and deterrence were framed and thus used to justify capital punishment in the early years of the Republic, and how the purposes for capital punishment have changed in the past two centuries. We ask several related questions: (1) Has our understanding of the morality and utility of retributive justice changed so dramatically that the historical argument tying justification for capital punishment to the past now ought to carry less weight? (2) Have our perspectives on the purposes for capital punishment changed in ways that now might call the entire experiment into question? and (3) What, in short, can we say about the historical similarities between arguments concerning retribution and deterrence at the Founding and those same arguments today?As is often true of common law principles, the reasons for the rule are less sure and less uniform than the rule itself. (Justice Marshall's majority opinion in Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986))

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Is the Death Penalty Dying? (Book Series: Studies in Law, Politics and Society) Emerald Group Publishing Limited





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