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Authors

Norman Redlich

Abstract

This article is a transcript from a program sponsored by the American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities entitled, “Politics and the Death Penalty: Can Rational Discourse and Due Process Survive the Perceived Political Pressure?” In it, Norman Redlich, former Dean of New York University Law School, James Coleman, Shabata Sundiata Waglini, Attorney General Ernest Preate, Jr., Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Alabama Capital Representation Resource Center, journalist Nat Hentoff, New York State Assemblywoman Susan John, and Chief Justice Exum of the North Carolina Supreme Court discuss the issue of the death penalty in America. Redlich discusses his experience litigating organizing the New York State Justice-PAC, a political action committee which promoted anti-death penalty candidates for the New York State legislature, and challenges the notion that there is overwhelming public support in the United States of America for the death penalty. Coleman provides an overview on what the Supreme Court has done in the area of capital punishment, with an emphasis on the question whether the states can implement the death penalty fairly. Coleman posits that there is still unguided discretion in the implementation of the death penalty since Furman v. Georgia and McCleskey v. Kemp, and that in the years since the Court reinstituted the death penalty, it has become increasingly more difficult for defendants to litigate the constitutionality of their convictions and sentences. Waglini, born Joseph Green Brown, spent fourteen years on death row and came within fifteen hours of being executed for a crime he did not commit. Waglini emphasizes that he sees the issue of death penalty at the state level as primarily a political one, and discusses his experience in the system from his trial through his appeal before the Eleventh Circuit, which stayed his death sentence. Attorney General Preate posits that in too many of our capital cases there is ineffective assistance of counsel on both sides and discusses his work towards achieving federal habeas reform. Stevenson discusses his experiences representing men on death row, with a focus on the racial disparities of the system, while Nat Hentoff discusses how the press has done very little to clarify, or to expose, what he sees as propaganda by the advocates of the death penalty. Assemblywoman John discusses running for office as an anti-death penalty candidate, and Chief Justice Exum comments on the politics of the death penalty in the North Carolina judiciary.

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