POLI 490
Advanced Undergraduate Seminar: The Death Penalty
Th 2:00-5:00pm, Gardner 009, Fall 2015

Prof. Frank R. Baumgartner
313 Hamilton Hall, phone 962-0414
Web site: http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/
Office hours: Th 1-2, F 11-12, and by appointment

Click here for the syllabus

Announcements and reminders:

We have a new room for class: 009 Gardner. We will meet there for the rest of the semester.

Class for Tuesday September 1, 2-5pm, will be in room 210 of the Stone Center.

Class for Tuesday October 27, also 210 Stone Center. No class on Thursday October 29.

Useful resources (to be enhanced and amended throughout the semester)

Template for what a chapter will look like, in Word

Web site to make a map, thanks to Kaneesha Johnson. Just have available a CSV file to upload where column a is "fips" (5-digit code for county) and column b is "value". Cells left blank will be left blank or clear in the map, and that should be ok. Just give a title and subtitle to the map and it will automatically generate from the CSV file you upload. Have fun and be productive. Coming soon: the same program to do maps by 2-digit state code.

Archive of thousands of news stories relating to the death penalty nationally.

Story in French about the last 10 inmates to be executed in France before capital punishment was abolished in 1981.

State of Georgia site about death row: http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/Research/Annual_CY_roster_death_row_inmates.html

Ohio Attorney General Capital Crimes Reports: (search down the page for "Capital Crimes Annual Report": http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Media/Reports

North Carolina Death Row information: (see the links to the left of the page for information on death row inmates and those removed from death row) https://www.ncdps.gov/index2.cfm?a=000003,002240,002327

Clark County (IN) Prosecutor's Office, which maintains a huge database on all US executions, including lots of detailed information about all inmates executed, including links to news coverage of their trials, etc. Unfortunately the archives thin out before about 2000 or so, but for recent executions, this is a very good source of additional information.

The DPIC execution database, generally consisent with our spreadsheet. In fact, we work together to maintain accuracy on many things. So if you find errors in my database, we may coordinate with them to correct their data as well.

Note about our master spreadsheet, execs7714master.xlsx: a) if you find errors, don't correct them in the spreadsheet but rather bring them to my attention, and I'll change them in my master copy so that it is corrected once and for all. B) some have asked about the race / ethnicity of the inmate: it is in column S, "race" and coded as follows: 1 = White, 2 = Black, 3 = Latino, 4 = Native American, 5 = Asian, 9 = Other. Column Q for "sex" refers to the gender of the inmate: 1 = male 2 = female.

Court decisions to study and assignment for week 2, August 27

Assignment for week 3, September 2.

Recent news stories and publications on the various topics we will be investigating


Beardsley, Meg, Sam Kamin, Justin Marceau & Scott Phillips.  2015.  Disquieting Discretion: Race, Geography & the Colorado Death Penalty in the First Decade of the Twenty-first Century. Denver University Law Review 92, 4: 431-52. See also this news coverage.

The Connecticut Study by John Donohue and a rebuttal argument by Kent Scheidegger. Donohue's study was a complete review of all homicides in CT from 1973 through recent years, analyzing which cases went through to capital trials, convictions, and executions. Scheidegger argues that his analysis is faulty. These are great resources for understanding the kinds of arguments that occur. Also, Donahue reviews the literaure on race-of-fictim effects very well. There is also some discussion of geography in the Donohue study. For those interested, I also have a 400 page version of Donohue's analysis; contact me for that one!


A set of plots and graphs by a data visualization web site. Note that I think that they have lots of the data wrong (!) (example: NC is listed as 43 executions over all of US history, but in fact that's the number for the period since 1976), but it's a good looking web site. Perhaps we can get some ideas from there about how to design a better web site.

Maybe be a peer tutor for POLI 203 students next semester:

The Learning Center is now accepting peer tutor applications for Spring 2016.

Prospective peer tutors must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher and a strong command of content knowledge.  Prior teaching or tutoring experience is not required.  Peer tutors must be available from 6-9pm on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings.

Prospective peer tutors should submit an application by January 1, 2016.

Once selected as a peer tutor, the Learning Center staff will enroll you in EDUC 387 – peer tutoring, a three-credit hour course.

The benefits of serving as a peer tutoring include the following:

  1. Build your resume;
  2. Earn 3 credit hours;
  3. Review content knowledge for professional exams such as the GRE, GMAT & MCAT;
  4. Expand your leadership skills;
  5. Gain fundamental knowledge of teaching and learning.

Questions should be directed to Christy Clemons at cawebb@email.unc.edu.

last updated December 29, 2015