POLI 203
Race, Innocence, and the End of the Death Penalty
Lectures: M, W, 1:25-2:15pm, Hamilton Hall (Pauli Murray Hall), 100
Note the evening speakers events, 5:30-7:00pm, as well, see below for dates

Spring 2022

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

Office hours: M 2:15-3:15 (in person), W 3:30-4:30 (zoom) and by appointment

Click here for information about the speakers series. (Poster version.) (Please note: attendance at the speakers series is mandatory for students enrolled in the class. It's open to others as well, so feel free to invite your friends.)

Click here for the syllabus. Click here to see a university-wide reminder of attendance and other policies that also governs our course together. This relates particularly to the pandemic but is not limited to that.

Click here for a template that you can use for your term paper. Feel free to download this template and just use it to write your paper. Click here for some guidelines about what we'll be looking for.

Zoom link for the main lectures: https://unc.zoom.us/j/98945429235 (requires a password available through Sakai)

Zoom link for evening speakers: https://unc.zoom.us/j/98439431543 (password: Innocent)

Zoom link for office hours: https://unc.zoom.us/my/frankbaumgartner

Direct link to the main Sakai page for the class: https://sakai.unc.edu/x/EolWa0 (available to enrolled students only; note you should also have one for your recitation section).

Books required for all students to purchase:

  1. Baumgartner, Frank R., Marty Davidson, Kaneesha R. Johnson, Arvind Krishnamurthy, and Colin P. Wilson. 2018. Deadly Justice: A Statistical Portrait of the Death Penalty. New York: Oxford University Press.
  2. Harris, Lynden, ed. 2021. Right Here, Right Now: Life Stories from America’s Death Row. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (Note from ouir colleagues in Durham: Your students can receive a 30% discount off the list price of Duke University Press books if they order at dukeupress.edu and enter the coupon COURSE30 during checkout.)
Link to the website associated with our class textbook; please explore the links fully for various resources and links.

Please refer to the syllabus for course policies, assignments, and so on. This page lists the weekly readings and will be continuously updated throughout the semester with announcements, links to resources, and other updates. Note that this website will be highly dynamic throughout the semester and will be the main place where I will add information about the course, as well as useful links.

Weekly schedule

Week 1: Jan 10, Introduction, and the 1972 Furman decision eliminating the old death penalty.

Monday: no readings. Slides. Playing Solitary
Wednesday: Deadly Justice, ch1. Slides. Results from the first-day survey. (Ouch!)

Week 2: Jan 17, The 1976 Gregg decision and the modern death penalty system.

Monday:  MLK Day, no class

Wednesday:  Deadly Justice, ch 2. Slides

Week 3: Jan 24, Who commits homicide? Who is victimized? Who gets executed? For which crimes?

Monday:  Deadly Justice, ch 3. Slides

Evening speaker: Chris Turner
Wednesday: Deadly Justice, ch 4. Slides

Week 4: Jan 31, Is the death penalty reserved for the “worst of the worst”? Or for those who commit crimes in the wrong places?

Monday: Deadly Justice, ch 5. Slides (guest lecturer: Arvind Krishnamurthy)

Wednesday: Deadly Justice, ch 6. Slides

First essay due on Part I and II of Right Here, Right Now

Week 5: Feb 7, Is the death penalty reliable, or do sentences routinely get overturned? How long do individuals sit on death row before execution? Is that torture?

Monday: Deadly Justice, ch 7. Slides
Evening speaker: Jerome Morgan
Wednesday: Deadly Justice, ch 8. Slides

Week 6: Feb 14, More on torture: sentencing innocent people to death, then reversing the sentence; the never-ending search for a humane method of execution.

Monday: Deadly Justice, ch 9 Slides

Wednesday: Deadly Justice, ch 10 Slides

Second essay due on Part III and IV of Right Here, Right Now

Week 7: Feb 21, Stays of execution, last minute delays, and mental health on death row.

Monday: Deadly Justice, ch 11 Slides.

Wednesday: Deadly Justice, ch 12 Slides

Week 8: Feb 28, Public opinion and cost

Monday: Deadly Justice, ch 13 Slides. Link to Gallup Poll data on the death penalty.

Wednesday: Deadly Justice, ch 14 Slides

Third essay due on Part V and VI of Right Here, Right Now

Week 9: Mar 7, Deterrence, and evolving standards / declining use.

Monday: Deadly Justice, ch 15 (No slides for today; we'll catch up on chapters 13 and 14 from last week first. BTW your quiz results continue to be excellent. Good job!)

Evening speaker: Kristine Bunch

Wednesday: Deadly Justice, ch 16 Slides for ch 15 and 16

Spring Break: March 12 to 20, have fun, be safe

Week 10: Mar 21, Conclusions from this long review of so many issues: Does the death penalty meet the goals of Gregg, or fail the test of Furman?

Monday: Deadly Justice, ch 17 Slides

Evening speakers: Gary Griffin and Ken Rose

Wednesday: Review and catch-up, no readings. Come with your questions as well as your answers to this exercise. Please use this link to record your answers when you are ready. It should not take long. Slides

Fourth essay due on Part VII and VIII of Right Here, Right Now

Week 11: Mar 28 Current legal arguments

Monday: The Roper extension; argument: Should the age limit be 18 or 21 for the death penalty? Slides

Evening speakers: Dontae Sharpe, Ronnie Long, and attorneys Theresa Newman and Jamie Lau

Wednesday: Discussion of Right Here, Right Now with special guest, Lynden Harris, Executive Director of Hidden Voices. Slides

TA approval of your research paper topic due in section this week

Week 12: Apr 4, What if public support for the death penalty is partly connected to white racial hostility toward blacks? What are the legal ramifications of that?

Monday: David Boyce in the lecture rather than in the evening.

Wednesday: Focus on our guest speaker, Marc Bookman, and we'll cover some highlights from the readings on race listed beow. Slides

Week 13: Apr 11, The death penalty normalizes extremely long prison punishments, such as “life without parole.” What should be the punishment for homicide?

Monday: How we got LWOP in the first place: Slides (Note, these slides are really about the readings for last week as well as the Racial Resentment article below)

Wednesday: Review of levels of homicide / manslaughter and relevant punishments, Slides (including about the Throwing away the Key article)

Links to the North Carolina criminal code and punishment grid below. Browse through the list of offenses and their corresponding offense levels, then look at the charts showing the penalties for those crimes. See what you think about the justice of that. Could you improve on it? Note in particular the differences between crimes that are successful and the "attempted" version of the same crime, such as the penalty for code 941, attempted second degree murder, and code 940, second degree murder. How about 945, solicitation to commit murder?

Week 14: Apr 18, The Racial Justice Act and the future of the death penalty in North Carolina.

Monday: Background Slides

Evening speaker: Chris Ochoa

Chris mentioned his concern about the possible execution of Melissa Lucio; here is a link to a petition you can sign to build pressure to stop it.

Wednesday: Decisions and the current status of the NC death penalty Slides

Six-page research paper due on Wed, 5pm.

Week 15: Apr 25, Conclusions, Discussions, and Review

Monday: Come with your questions and comments. Slides

Also, please consider writing a note to thank the university for the money to do our speakers series. Here is a template you can use. (Feel free to change the wordings.) Please print it out, sign it, and bring it to class either on the last day of class, or at the final exam. I'll collect them and give to the Powers That Be.

Evening speakers: Andrea Harrison and Katie Monroe
Wednesday: Last day of class, come with your questions about the final exam. Slides

Final exam: Monday May 2, 2022, 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm

Further resources, even after the course is over...

Many of you asked for additional books similar to Right Here, Right Now. Here are a few. The first one is actually written by many of the same individuals whose stories were compiled in Right Here, Right Now. Others were used in previous versions of this class and include a number of memoirs and stories about individual cases. There are many such books; this is just a sampling. Only the first book is creative writing by incarcerated individuals; others are memoirs or investigations of wrongful convictions.

If any of you are from Winston Salem, or even if not, you may be interested in this film: The Trials of Darryl Hunt. Darryl was a friend, and wonderful person; he previously spoke in this class. This documentary tells about his wrongful conviction for a brutal killing and the horrible racial dynamics surrounding the trial. He served almost 20 years in prison and when he returned to the community he was a leader for reform.

Compassion is a newletter / magazine published six times per year containing articles written by death-row prisoners across the country, and distributed for free to all death row inmates. The current editor is George Wilkerson, on North Carolina's death row.

An interesting NYT story from 1988 about what it's like to be a capital defender.

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. You can get a better copy by going through the UNC libraries.

Some of you may be interested in the torture element of prolonged solitary confinement. Here is a recent law review article on the topic.

A student in class is involved in this group, Free Minds Book Club, which zooms with formerly incarcerated individuals and encourages creative writing projects. Feel free to get involved.

Resources related to juvenile LWOP and related matters:

Lots of you want to know about internships. Here are a few ideas:

BTW, if you want to write to any of the individuals who have called into our class, you can use this address. Note that the letter will be scanned, and they will get the scan, not the original, so don't include anything in the letter such as enclosures. Also make sure to use your full name in the return address. Put the name of the individual in the format listed below and then the address. Put a stamp on it and use the post office to mail it the old fashioned way!

Michael J Braxton - 0043529
Scott D Allen - 0005091
Eddie Larmar Taylor - 0762634
Lyle C. May - 0580028

Central Prison
PO Box 247
Phoenix, MD  21131  

page last updated April 27, 2022