Garrett co-authors classroom guide to law, politics, societal debate around capital punishment

July 10, 2018Duke Law News

Professor Brandon Garrett

Professor Brandon Garrett’s new book offers readers an overview of the law and practice of the death penalty in the United States, as well as the fierce social and political debate around it.

Garrett, the L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law, and co-author Lee Kovarsky, a professor of law at the University of Maryland, have designed The Death Penalty: Concepts and Insights (Foundation Press, 2018) for use in both undergraduate and graduate courses on the subject. Beginning with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1972 ruling in Furman v. Georgia that struck down death penalty schemes as constituting cruel and unusual punishment, causing a temporary national moratorium, they use cases and stories to introduce concepts and tell the history of the evolution of the American death penalty, and to illustrate how the legal standards have developed over time. They also present empirical data and delve into social science research on the death penalty, describe how race has shaped capital punishment, trends in death sentencing regionally in the U.S. and globally, and discuss the role of innocence in current debates about capital punishment.

Cover of book, "The Death Penalty: Concepts and Insights"The co-authors, who will next turn to completing the second edition of their 2013 casebook, Federal Habeas Corpus: Executive Detention and Post-Conviction Litigation, also published by Foundation Press, saw the possibility for “another ideal collaboration” when the publisher approached them about a work on the death penalty, said Garrett, a leading scholar of criminal justice outcomes, evidence, and constitutional rights. “I was working on empirical projects that would culminate in my last book, and Lee was continuing to intensively litigate capital habeas cases in Texas,” said Garrett. “We could not be more pleased to see this book come out in print.”

Garrett’s last book, End of its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice (Harvard University Press, 2017), posits that the near-demise of the death penalty across the country exposes underlying systemic flaws in the administration of criminal justice in the U.S. and a blueprint for reform. He also maintains an online map tracking U.S. death sentences from 1991 to the present.

Garrett, whose research agenda focuses on forensic science, eyewitness identification, corporate crime, constitutional rights and habeas corpus, and criminal justice policy, is also the author of Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong (Harvard University Press, 2011), and Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations (Harvard University Press, 2014).