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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Final Version of Executing Retributivism is Now Available

Just a quick note that the final paginated version of "Executing Retributivism: Panetti and the Future of the Eighth Amendment," my recent Eighth Amendment piece, is now available on SSRN, and soon in a Northwestern U. L. Rev. near you (103 Nw U LR 1163 (2009)). Oddly, the Nw U LR has a policy of not using/permitting abstracts, which I found befuddling, since I think abstracts are pretty important, and they didn't have a really good reason for not permitting abstracts, other than consistency with the past and not wanting to irritate other authors who had asked and been denied earlier -- talk about the costs of transition rules! That said, my experience with the NW editing team was truly outstanding, and I commend their EIC Dave Baltmanis and all the other excellent editors who helped me whip this into shape, even as some were prepping for the bar...


Here's the abstract, which I took from an earlier draft.  Again, the final version is available here.

In Panetti v. Quarterman, a 2007 Supreme Court case about the standard of mental competence required for execution, the Court demanded that the defendant must rationally understand why he is being killed. Although the Court's explanation for this new "rational understanding" requirement was somewhat inchoate, this Article argues that the new requirement only makes sense if there is a commitment to the view that state punishment operates primarily as a communicative retributive encounter between the state and the offender. That view of punishment, in other words, is Panetti's ratio decidendi, the implicit rationale which best explains the case's holding.

Once properly explicated, this rationale entails two profound and insufficiently appreciated consequences. First, the rationale, properly extended, would decisively erode the constitutional justification for the continued use of the death penalty. Second, this rationale would upend the Court's past Eighth Amendment cases that have required neutrality among sentencing purposes selected by the states. Instead, the rationale would elevate "negative retributivism" to a place of primary importance in constitutional criminal law. Under a commitment to negative retributivism, the Court would need to substantially revise at least three areas of law affecting: the practice of warehousing mentally ill persons in prisons; the treatment of claims of actual innocence; and assessments of noncapital sentencing proportionality. In short, once the foundations for the decision are properly understood, Panetti, a seemingly sleepy case about a doctrinally narrow issue, can change virtually everything we know about the Eighth Amendment.


Posted by Administrators on August 5, 2009 at 02:02 PM in Article Spotlight, Criminal Law, Dan Markel | Permalink

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