Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Public Policy and Law
The American death penalty has been at the center of political debates for decades. More specifically, the complexity of death penalty delay has gained significant attention from the public as well as the Supreme Court justices. Death penalty delay represents the time that transpires between when a capital crime is committed and when the execution is carried out. Today, more than half of all prisoners currently sentenced to death have been on death row for more than 18 years. This staggering statistic has ignited debate and divided the conservative justices from the liberal justices even more. This thesis will first analyze the historical evolution of this delay and explain the root causes that have contributed to the growing amount of time spent on death row. Through a judicial lens, the central arguments made by the conservative and liberal justices will be evaluated. The conservative justices consistently argue that delay is simply caused by the defendants themselves to prolong their lives. The liberal justices tend to argue that delay is a result of forces beyond the control of the defendants, and that the delay itself is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The issue of actual innocence is embedded in both discussions. My argument will highlight the paradox that such delay has created: the longer an inmate spends on death row, the more likely he or she is to be exonerated if wrongfully convicted. Therefore, this thesis will illuminate the connection between delay and exonerations, proving that death penalty delay allows innocent defendants to investigate and present their claims in ways that were not possible during the initial trial.
Gill, Zoë, "The Paradox of Death Penalty Delay: A Judicial, Empirical, and Ethical Study". Senior Theses, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 2023.
Trinity College Digital Repository, https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/theses/1040
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Senior thesis completed at Trinity College, Hartford CT for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and Law.