The University of New Hampshire Law Review


[Excerpt] “In 1976, four years after finding the nation’s death penalty laws to be constitutionally flawed, the U.S. Supreme Court established the parameters of modern American death penalty jurisprudence. Since then the Court has gone through several phases. The Court proceeded cautiously from 1977 to 1982, limiting the death penalty to those who committed murder in a manner deemed especially heinous and despicable by judges and juries, requiring even-handedness and consistency in capital sentencing, and insisting that sentencing authorities examine the individual characteristics of each offender and the particular circumstances of his crime. From 1983 to 2001, however, the Court took a more aggressive stance in favor of capital punishment. The Justices rejected major constitutional challenges to the fairness of death penalty laws and upheld the constitutionality of executing mentally retarded offenders, sixteen- and seventeen-year-old offenders, and felony accomplices who neither killed nor intended to kill. Beginning in 2002, the Justices once again began to scrutinize death penalty statutes and procedures closely and with a critical eye. The Court reversed its holdings permitting the executions of mentally retarded offenders and juvenile offenders, tightened standards for appellate review of the competence of capital defense attorneys, and invalidated sentencing procedures that seemed likely to produce arbitrary or discriminatory life-ending verdicts.”

Repository Citation

Kenneth C. Haas, The Emerging Death Penalty Jurisprudence of the Roberts Court, 6 Pierce L. Rev. 387 (2008), available at http://scholars.unh.edu/unh_lr/vol6/iss3/5