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A Trial On Death Row

Publication Date: 
September 01, 2012
The New York Times - Sunday Review
Lincoln Kaplan

Professor John Donohue's study on capital punishment in Connecticut murder cases between 1973to 2007 is mentioned by Lincoln Kaplan in this New York Times article.

An extraordinary trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday in Connecticut, held at the prison housing the state’s death row. The petitioners are inmates sentenced to death for violent felonies, who are seeking to have their sentences reduced to life without parole on the ground that the death penalty in Connecticut is unconstitutional because it has been randomly imposed on a small group of people.

In April, Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty and the fifth in five years. But that law does not apply to those already sentenced. The inmates in this case will be presenting evidence compiled by John Donohue, a Stanford law professor, who studied how capital punishment was imposed in every Connecticut murder case from 1973 (when the state passed a death penalty law) to 2007. His analysis dispelled the erroneous claim that only the “worst of the worst” among criminals are given the death penalty. Instead, he found that the penalty has been applied with “arbitrariness and discrimination” based on race and geography, and that death row inmates are indistinguishable from other violent offenders who escaped capital punishment.