POLI 203
Race, Innocence, and the End of the Death Penalty
M, W 2:00–2:50pm, Stone Center 103, Fall 2014

Prof. Frank R. Baumgartner
313 Hamilton Hall, phone 962-0414
Web site: http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/

Office hours: M, W, 3:00-5:00 pm and by appointment

Teaching assistants, offices, and office hours:
Derek Epp, derekepp@email.unc.edu, 300 Hamilton, Wed 10-12, 3-4
Jelle Koedam, koedam@email.unc.edu, 300 Hamilton, Tue 9:30-11, Wed 3-4:30
John Lovett, jllovett@email.unc.edu, 459 Hamilton, Tue 3-4, Thu 10-12
Kelsey Shoub, shoub@email.unc.edu, 300 Hamilton, Wed 9-12

Class assistants / graders:
Daniel Gustafson, dgustaf@live.unc.edu
Thomas Loeber, tloeber@live.unc.edu

Click here for the syllabus.

Click here to see the speakers series (printable version); larger poster version.

Readings are below. You should purchase the two books that we will read in full, and all other readings should have a hyperlink below. Let me know if you have problems with any of the links.

Note: Some of the readings include short passages that may be upsetting to survivors of violence. Typically these are newspaper stories about a capital case, with some description about the underlying crime; these are often terrible crimes. We have flagged with the symbol *** and reading that may have such a trigger. Please be careful in reading these, or ask a friend to flag relevant passages. None of the readings has more than some passages relating to such potentially upsetting material.

Week 1, Wed Aug 20, Introduction and overview of the course

Week 2, Aug 25, 27, Historical background and statistics about the death penalty in America and how it works in North Carolina.

  1. Jost, Kenneth.  2010.  Death Penalty Debates: Is the capital punishment system working?  CQ Researcher 20 (41, Nov. 19):  965-988. ***
  2. Welty, Jeff.  2012.  The Death Penalty in North Carolina:  History and Overview.  Working paper, UNC School of Government, April.
  3. Slides for Monday: Maps, Background, Quiz on Facts, Results of Quiz; slides for Wednesday.

Week 3, Sep 3, How the death penalty came back so strongly in the 1970s
(No class on Sep 1, happy Labor Day)

  1. Garland, David.  2010.  Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Chapter 9, New Political and Cultural Meanings, pp. 231-255. slides
  2. Read these newspaper articles about the Sep 2 exonerations of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, in prison since 1983:
    1. News and Observer stories by Joseph Neff:
      1. New DNA evidence could free two men in notorious Robeson County case, 30 August 2014.***
      2. On death row, tormented by watching friends march to their executions, 30 August 2014.***
      3. Judge overturns convictions of Robeson men in child's 1983 rape, murder, 2 September 2014. ***
    2. Here is a copy of the flier sent to NC voters during the 2012 election cycle. Note there are two pages to the link, click on the arrow at the bottom to go to the second flier.
    3. Winston-Salem Journal coverage of the flier issue: Flier opens an old wound, by Annette Fuller, Updated Dec 11, 2012.
    4. Front page New York Times coverage: DNA Evidence Clears Two Men in 1983 Murder, By Jonathan M. Katz and Erik Eckholm, 2 September 2014. ***
    5. Op Ed from Ken Rose about his frustrations in the case: I just freed an innocent man from death row. And I’m still furious. Washington Post, 4 September 2014.
    6. Listen to this NPR interview from 4 September 2014 with Kendra Montgomery-Blinn, Executive Director of the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission, who will be joining us later in the semester.
    7. Front page New York Times coverage of what amounts to a pissing match between the old and new prosecutors, with one callling the other a bully and the other using a term that is not very polite in return, from 7 September 2014. ***

Week 4, Sep 8, 10,   Race and Executions

  1. Frank R. Baumgartner, Amanda Grigg, and Alisa Mastro.  2014. Capital Punishment and the Invisible Black Male:  Race-of-Victim Effects in US Executions, 1977-2013.  Paper under review, Politics, Groups, and Identity.
  2. Blume, John, Theodore Eisenberg, and Martin T. Wells.  2004.  Explaining Death Row’s Population and Racial Composition. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 1, 1: 165–207.
  3. Slides for Monday on McCollum and Brown; list of NC Exonerations (for Monday as well); slides for Wed on race.
  4. Click here for information about your first paper assignment.

Week 5, Sep 15, 17, Introduction to the Troy Davis case

  1. I Am Troy Davis, pp. 1-160.
  2. Believe it or not, there may be still another NC death row exoneration coming: In Columbus County, another death row conviction faces a challenge, Raleigh News and Observer, 13 September 2014, by Joseph Neff.
  3. Interesting graphic from the Washington Post displaying all 1400+ executions since 1976.
  4. Slides for Monday
  5. Background on the extensive media coverage associated with the Troy Davis execution: here are links to representative stories from the New York Times; Washington Post; and one from the Savannah Morning News about when Troy turned himself in.

Week 6, Sep 22, 24, Troy Davis, part 2

  1. I Am Troy Davis, pp. 160-271.
  2. Slides for Monday, slides for Wednesday
  3. Op Eds relating to the McCollum and Brown exonerations by crime survivors associated with our speakers:
    1. Regina Lane, Wrong arrests lead to more deaths, trauma, danger. Raleigh News and Observer, September 20, 2014. *** (Regina survived an attack by Willard Brown, the true perpetrator in the case of Darryl Hunt. Darryl will speak on Nov 5.)
    2. Yolanda Littlejohn, My Sister’s Convicted Killer Was Innocent; 23 Years Later, I’m Still Waiting for Justice. TheRoot.com, September 22, 2014. ***(Yolanda's sister, Jacquetta Thomas, was murdered in Raleigh. Greg Taylor was sentenced for that crime, but later released on the grounds of innocence. The true killer was never apprehended, and the case, from 1991, is the oldest unsolved homicide in Raleigh today. Greg will speak on Oct 8.)

Speakers, Wed 5:30-7:00pm Sept. 24:  Jen Marlowe and Kim Davis
Jen is author of your book, and Kim is Troy’s younger sister

(First paper topic proposal due in discussion section this week for approval.)

Week 7, Sep 29, Oct 1, New Arguments:  Innocence, Cost, Mistakes, Incompetence, Randomness

  1. Radelet, Michael L., and Marian J. Borg.  2000.  The Changing Nature of Death Penalty Debates.  Annual Review of Sociology 26:  43-61.
  2. Baumgartner, Frank R., Suzanna Linn and Amber E. Boydstun. 2010.  The Decline of the Death Penalty: How Media Framing Changed Capital Punishment in America.  In Brian F. Schaffner and Patrick J. Sellers, eds.  Winning with Words:  The Origins and Impact of Framing.  New York:  Routledge, pp. 159–84.
  3. Dieter, Richerd C.  2013.  The 2% death Penalty:  How a Minority of Counties Produce Most Death Cases at Enormous Costs to All.  Washington, DC:  Death Penalty Information Center.
  4. Links for information on executions: DPIC execution database; Clark County (IN) Prosecutor's Office website on executions.
  5. Link to a terrible story not about the death penalty, but about NC prisons: Michael Biesecker, NC inmate died of thirst after 35 days in solitary, Raleigh News and Observer, September 26, 2014.
  6. Ken Rose is the Tar Heel of the Week...
  7. Slides for Monday on framing, slides for Wednesday on geography.

Speaker, Wed 5:30-7:00pm Oct. 1:  Ballard Everett
Ballard is NC coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty and a consultant in Raleigh

Week 8 Oct 6, 8, Public Opinion, Racial Sentiment, and Death Sentences

  1. Peffley, Mark, and Jon Hurwitz.  2007.  Persuasion and Resistance: Race and the Death Penalty in America.  American Journal of Political Science 51, 4: 996-1012.
  2. Baumgartner, Frank R., Suzanna DeBoef and Amber E. Boydstun.  2009.  The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence (New York: Cambridge University Press), ch 6 (public opinion): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. (Note: the file is in 3 parts because the individual PDF's got too big. Make sure you download and read all 3.)
  3. Slides for Monday and Wednesday

Speaker, Wed 5:30-7:00pm Oct. 8:  Greg Taylor and Chris Mumma
Greg was exonerated in 2010 after 17 years in prison; Chris, of the NC Center on Actual Innocence, was his attorney

Week 9, Oct 13, 15,  The Long Run History of North Carolina’s Death Penalty
(First paper due in lecture, Oct 15.)

  1. UNC Wilson Library Special Collections on the History of the Death Penalty: http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/exhibits/penalty/intro.html
  2. Kotch, Seth, and Robert P. Mosteller.  2010.  The Racial Justice Act and the Long Struggle with Race and the Death Penalty in North Carolina.  UNC Law Review 88: 2031-2132. 
  3. UNC Law School event about the McCollum / Brown case, Oct 21 2014 5:30pm, Law 5048, Justice Delayed
  4. An exoneration last week in California... A woman was framed for the brutal killing of her fomer boyfriend after she left a world of drugs. The police officer who arrested her had also led another investigation that led to an exoneration. The nine-year old daughter who was present when her mom was taken away fought for 17 years for her release.
  5. And one in Texas... Note that in this case Mr. Velez took a deal in which he pled guilty to "injury to a child" as the prosecutors continue to assert his involvement in the death of his girldfriend's baby. He signed a detailed confession written in English but has an IQ of 65 and is barely literate in Spanish less so in English.
  6. Slides for Monday (mostly make-up) and slides for Wednesday on history.

No speaker this Wed because it is Fall Break

Week 10, Oct 20, 22,  Levon Bo Jones goes to death row

  1. The Last Lawyer, Part I, pp. 1-92. Slides for Monday, Wednesday
  2. An interesting NYT story from 1988 about what it's like to be a capital defender.
  3. You may start to think I am making this up, but there were two additional exonerations last week:
    1. In Brooklyn, David McCallum was released after 29 years. See the interview from October 16, 2014. Read an interview from NPR from October 18 with the Brooklyn District Attorney who complains that he took over an office that had too many wrongful convictions and has created a "conviction integrity unit" within his office to review possible errors in other cases. Dallas County TX was the first jurisdiction to establish a Conviction Integrity Unit, doing so in 2007. Dallas DA Craig Watkins is the first African-American to be DA in Dallas. His great-grandfather was executed by the state of Texas in 1932.
    2. In North Carolina, the Innocence Inquiry Commission released last week Willie H Womble, who served 38 years, going to prison in 1976. See the News and Observer coverage here.
  4. Mylan faces investor pressures over use of drugs in US executions, by Andrew Ward, Financial Times October 19, 2014. An interesting and important, but controversial, part of an abolition strategy.

Speaker, Wed 5:30-7:00pm Oct. 22, LaMonte Armstrong and Theresa Newman
LaMonte was exonerated in 2013 and Theresa, from Duke Law School, was his attorney

Week 11, Oct 27, 29, Levon Bo Jones goes free

  1. The Last Lawyer, Part II, pp. 93-234. Slides for Monday, Wednesday.
  2. A "quiz" in anticipation of our speakers event on Wednesday. Pose your questions now to Ken Rose.
  3. Your possible paper topics for the second paper. You need to decide quickly, and let your TA know next week of your chosen topic.
  4. Note this link about an interesting career opportunity, with the Carolina College Advising Corps. This organization takes recent UNC graduates and puts them out in the state's high schools to help encourage kids from backgrounds where they might not always think of it to go to college. It's a very innovative effort by Carolina to change the dynamic that leads to poor opportunities for so many people. Applications for Fall 2015 are due on January 16, 2015.
  5. During his talk, Ken Rose talked about a film called "Fourteen Days in May" about one of his clients from Mississippi. Here is a youtube link to this film, which runs about 90 minutes.

Speaker, Wed 5:30-7:00pm Oct. 29,  Ken Rose
Ken is, of course, The Last Lawyer and an attorney for the CDPL in Durham

Week 12, Nov 3, 5, Passage of the 2009 The Racial Justice Act and its Aftermath

(Second paper topic proposal due in discussion section this week for approval.)

  1. Racial Justice Act, 2009
  2. Reform of the Racial Justice Act, 2011
  3. Elimination of the Racial Justice Act, 2013
  4. O’Brien, Barbara, and Catherine M. Grosso. 2011.  Confronting Race: How a Confluence of Social Movements Convinced North Carolina to Go where the McCleskey Court Wouldn’t. Michigan State Law Review 2011: 463-504.
  5. In preparation for our guest speaker, read this retrospective article from the Winston Salem Journal published 30 years after the original crime and 10 years after Darryl Hunt's exoneration. ***
  6. Read this commentary from a recent UNC grad about the linkage between the RJA and the McCollum exoneration:
    Eric Garcia, Henry McCollum’s Innocence and the Stakes for Death Row Inmates in a Red State. The American Prospect. September 25, 2014.
  7. Slides for Monday, Wednesday, maps of NC district courts, superior courts, prosecutorial districts, overview of the judicial system.
  8. Note: On Wednesday we have not only Darryl Hunt in the evening, but Jeremy Collins from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in class. He was the lead lobbyist at the time of the passage of the RJA, then came to UNC law where he was president of the law students association and graduated in 2013.

Speaker, Wed 5:30-7:00pm Nov. 5:  Darryl Hunt
Darryl was exonerated in 2004 after more than 19 years in prison for murder; he escaped the death penalty by one vote.  He now directs a nonprofit agency designed to reform the criminal justice system and help former inmates adjust to society.

Week 13,  Nov 10, 12, The first Racial Justice Act decision by Judge Weeks

  1. State of North Carolina v. Marcus Reymond Robinson, Order Granting Motion for Appropriate Relief, 91 CRS 23143, 20 April 2012.
  2. An article entitled Bias in the Box relating various stories including mention of many of our speakers and key players in the NC RJA debate and explaining a lot about bias in jury selection, based on interviews with many of the people you have heard about or met this semester. This was published in 2014 by Virginia Quarterly Review.
  3. Judge Weeks mentioned in class a memorandum from Justice Scalia to the other justices as they prepared their decisions in the McCleskey v. Kemp case. Here is an article by law professor Sam Gross which includes the text of the memo (p. 1921). The rest of the article is of great interest as well.
  4. From November 7, 2014, look at this video from PBS Newshour about compensation for exonerees. The site also has links to other related stories.
  5. For those of you doing your paper using search terms and newspaper searches, TA John Lovett has put together these handy tips. Make sure to read or make use of all three of them: Slides with instructions, text with more detailed instructions, sample spreadsheet.

Speaker, Wed 5:30-7:00pm Nov. 12:  Ron McAndrew
Ron took a position as a prison guard in Florida after relocating there following a divorce.  Several years later he was warden of central prison, where he oversaw a number of electrocutions, including that of Jesse Tafero, whose head caught fire.  Ron is now an advocate of abolition of the death penalty and speaks nationally to audiences of all types.

(Here is Ron McAndrew's website, which includes his contact information: RonMcAndrew.com)

Week 14 , Nov 17, 19  North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission
(Second paper due in lecture, Nov 19.)
Guest lecturer, in the regular class time, Kendra Montgomery-Blinn, JD, Executive Director, NC Innocence Inquiry Commission

  1. Discussion / lectures this week with Ms. Kendra Montgomery-Blinn, Executive Director of the Commission. (See her slides here)
  2. Readings: Come to class familiar with the web site of the Commission (not only this page but the entire site).
  3. Links to learn about our speakers, Katie and Beverly Monroe. Case synopsis; background; video; see this book for more information.

Speakers, Wed 5:30-7:00pm Nov 19, Beverly and Katie Monroe
Beverly was sentenced to 22 years in prison for a 1992 murder; Katie, her daughter and recent law school graduate, quit her job and worked for 8 years full time, eventually getting her mother released on the grounds of innocence in 2003.  Katie now works for the Innocence Project.

Week 15, Nov 24, Botched Executions, Shifting Methods of Execution over Time
(no Class on Wed Nov 26, Happy Thanksgiving)

  1. The first electrocution, as reported in the press at the time ***
  2. Florida's botched execution using the electric chair ***
  3. DPIC's page on botched executions ***
  4. Current events: three co-defendants exonerated after - get this - 39 years in prison. Here is a video of the release of one of them, Mr. Ricky Jackson.
  5. Remember to sign up for a visit to death row, and see the bottom of this page for instructions.
  6. Slides for today. Beginnings of a review including final exam format. Bring your questions to lecture on Monday and Wednesday next week.


Week 16, Dec 1, 3 “Life in Prison with the Remote Possibility of Death” – Unconstitutional, according to a Federal Judge; Review for Final Exam

  1. Ernest Dewayne Jones v Kevin Chappell, Order Declaring California’s Death Penalty System Unconstitutional and Vacating Petitioner’s Death Sentence, CV 09-02158-CJC 16 July 2014.
  2. Review for final; results of survey; slides from Wednesday

Final Exam: Friday, December 5, 4pm, in the regular lecture hall, 103 Stone Center. Good luck!

Finally, many of you are interested in internships during the summer or in the academic year dealing with issues related to those we have discussed in class. Here is a list of local opportunities. I recommend that you follow up with these individual opportunities. Tell them that you have taken this class.

  1. Since I get to go first, maybe you can work for me. I hire a small number of students each year and right now my students are work on issues relating to capital punishment or racial profiling in traffic stops. I also often have students doing senior theses on these topics, so think about that when the time comes if you are eligible. Go to my web page, and on the left side, at the bottom there is a link called Research Opportunities for Students.
  2. Southern Coalition for Social Justice. This is where Jeremy Collins works. They have paid and unpaid internships, and are located in Durham.
  3. People of Faith Against the Death Penalty. This is a national organization and just happens to be located in Carrboro.
  4. Center for Death Penalty Litigation. You know who that is. They are located in Durham.
  5. Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation. Like PFADP, this is a national organization and we are fortunate to have them right here in Raleigh.
  6. North Carolina Justice Center. They do a wide range of work relating to criminal justice and other issues.
  7. North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. This is also based in Durham and does advocacy and research. Jeremy Collins was working for them when he lobbied for the RJA. Tarrah Callahan, whom you have seen at the talks, is the director now. Darryl Hunt is on the staff, so you know its cool.
  8. North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence. This is directed by Chris Mumma, and the group coordinates the work of various innocence projects in NC law schools.
  9. You can also contact those law schools to see if you can find a way to help them as well. UNC, Duke, Wake, Campbell, NCCU law schools all have Innocence Projects. Google "Innocence Project" or "Wrongful Convictions Clinic" and the name of the law school. Mostly these are limited to enrolled law students, but who knows, maybe you can help out.
  10. Carolina Justice Policy Center. They have done a lot of work on the Racial Justice Act and other items related to the death penalty and criminal justice in general. Located in Durham.
  11. Legal Aid of North Carolina. Help to indigent defendants in a wide range of legal issues. Also in Durham.
  12. SpiritHouse, an organization in Durham that provides a wide range of community-building activities and services.
  13. Fostering Alternative Drug Enforcement (FADE), a Durham group active in promoting changes in local criminal justice activities. They were central in pressuring the city of Durham to make substantial changes in police activities in Fall 2014.
  14. Note: the MURAP progam provides summer training for under-represented minorities who are interested in going to graduate school in selected fields. I highly recommend it if you are at all, even potentially, interested in going to graduate school. Applications are coming up soon. Full information is available at this web site.

We have the opportunity to visit Death Row at Central Prison in Raleigh. Visits take place on Mondays or Fridays at 9am or 1pm, and I will work on scheduling those for the dates of Dec 8, 12, 15 and/or 19 of this year. It is very important that you comply with the very strict regulations for visitors. Here is a set of instructions. Please print this out and follow the instructions exactly, as the prison can deny admission to anyone if they do not comply. Meet at the parking lot on Raleigh Road just down the hill from the cemetary at the entrance to campus at 7:45am or 11:45am on the day you signed up. Remember to follow the rules carefully as they will not let you in with whatever they consider to be "contraband."