Student: Anna Knudson model lesson: The Death Penalty Background and Quiz taught: Friday, March 31, 2006

Download 242,72 Kb.
Date conversion05.02.2017
Size242,72 Kb.
  1   2
STUDENT: Anna Knudson

MODEL LESSON: The Death Penalty -- Background and Quiz

TAUGHT: Friday, March 31, 2006


    1. Historical background on the death penalty:

    2. Facts about capital punishment in Washington State: Washington Courts homepage,

    3. Death Penalty Quiz: The Death Penalty Information Center,

    4. Arguments for and against the death penalty: Encyclopedia Britannica online at

    5. Editorial, The Cost of Errant Justice, by Brian Forst, The Washington Post, Thursday, March 30, 2006,

  1. TIME: 50 Minutes

  1. GOALS: Conducting the death penalty exercise will allow students to:

    1. Learn about the history of the death penalty;

    2. Learn some basic facts about capital punishment;

    3. Consider the different arguments for and against it; and

    4. Start formulating and/or refining their own opinions about the death penalty.


    1. Knowledge Objectives – Following this class, students will be:

      1. Knowledgeable of some death penalty statistics, such as how many states have it, how many people have been put to death, etc.; and

      2. Familiar with some of the main arguments for and against the death penalty.

    1. Skills Objectives – As a result of this class, students should be better able to:

      1. Intelligently discuss issues surrounding the death penalty;

      2. Articulate and debate justifications for and against capital punishment; and

      3. Formulate their own opinions about wrongful convictions and capital punishment.

    1. Attitude Objectives – This Lesson Plan will help students feel that:

      1. There are valid arguments for and against the death penalty.


    1. Lecture -- Introduce the Death Penalty to the Students (10 minutes)

      1. Provide brief overview of the history of the death penalty in the United States based on the historical information provided in the student packets.

      2. Explain the different justifications for and against the death penalty (moral, utilitarian, practical.)

    1. Death Penalty Quiz – Based on the Attached 10 Questions & Answers (in the Homework – see p. 9 of the attachment)(30 minutes)

      1. Get two volunteer teams of two or three students each and bring to front of class.

      2. Ask each team for their answer to each question and why (with question written out for the overhead projector).

      3. Then ask audience opinions (show of hands.)

      4. Then provide right answer to question (written out on overhead.)

      5. Go through the other 9 questions in the same fashion.

      6. Determine which team has won the Death Penalty Quiz.


    1. The extent of the engagement and involvement in the Death Penalty Quiz.

    2. The quality of the class discussion surrounding each question and answer to the quiz.


See attached homework assignment to read the packet of information on the death penalty, which includes all of the answers to the Death Penalty Quiz, and write a paper expressing your opinion on the issue.

You have now participated in the “Death Penalty Quiz” to increase your understanding of the criminal justice system and capital punishment (the death penalty). This supplemental packet contains additional important information regarding the practical use of the death penalty in the U.S., Washington state, and the world.

Your assignment is to carefully read through these materials and use them to help you write a short essay arguing either for, or against, the death penalty in Washington state. The essay should not be longer than 500 words (about 1 page, typed and single spaced, or 2 pages double spaced), and will be worth 20 points. The essay need not be typed, but it should be legible. There is no right or wrong answer to the assignment, for there are excellent arguments on all sides of this issue. It will be graded based on the thoughtfulness of your answer, the quality of your writing and your ability to back up your arguments with the information contained in this handout. Think about moral and practical justifications for the death penalty, as well as about the justifications for punishment in general (retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence, incapacitation.)

In addition to the materials contained in this packet, please think about the problem of wrongful convictions and our in-class exercise on Friday, March 31st when you compose your essay. You need not limit your reasoning to any specific argument laid out in this packet. Be creative, but be persuasive. Good Luck!


1930 – 1967: The Death Penalty and Race From 1930, the first year for which statistics are readily available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, to 1967, 3,859 persons were executed under civil (that is, nonmilitary) jurisdiction in the United States. During this period of


nearly half a century, over half (54%) of those executed were black, 45 percent were white, and the remaining one percent were members of other racial groups -- American Indians (a total of 19 executed from 1930-1967), Filipino (13), Chinese (8), and Japanese (2). The vast majority of those executed were men; 32 women were executed from 1930 to 1967.
     Three out of five executions during that period took place in the southern U.S. Contrary to popular belief, the state of Georgia (and not Texas) had the highest number of executions during the period, totaling 366 -- more than nine percent of the national total. Texas followed with 297 executions; New York with 329; California with 292; and North Caroline with 263. Most executions -- 3,334 of 3,859 -- were for the crime of murder; 455 prisoners (12%) -- ninety percent of them black -- were executed for rape; 70 prisoners were executed for other offenses.
     During the same period, the U.S. Army (including the Air Force) executed 160 persons, including 106 executions for murder (including 21 involving rape), 53 for rape, and one for desertion. (The execution for desertion was the subject of the 1974 movie "The Execution of Private Slovik.") The U.S. Navy has executed no one since 1849.

Moratorium on Executions: By the end of the 1960s, all but 10 states had laws authorizing capital punishment, but strong pressure by forces opposed to the death penalty resulted in an unofficial moratorium on executions for several years, with the last execution during this period taking place in 1967. Prior to this, an average of 130 people were executed each year.

The Furman Case Invalidates Most Death Penalty Laws: Legal challenges to the death penalty culminated in a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision Furman v. Georgia(1972), which struck down federal and state capital punishment laws permitting wide discretion in the application of the death penalty. Characterizing these laws as "arbitrary and capricious," the majority ruled that they constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the due process guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment. In a rare display of non-conformity, each justice wrote a separate opinion. Only two of the justices (Justices Brennan and Marshall) declared capital punishment to be unconstitutional in all instances. Other Justices focused on the arbitrariness of the application of capital punishment, including the appearance of a racial bias against black defendants. In all, nine separate opinions -- five invalidating existing laws and four arguing for their retention -- were written by the nine Supreme Court justices spelling out their different views on what constituted the "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.

New Laws Upheld: More than 600 death row inmates who had been sentenced to death between 1967 and 1972 had their death sentences lifted as a result of Furman, but the numbers quickly began to build up again as states enacted revised legislation tailored to satisfy the Supreme Court's objections to arbitrary imposition of death sentences. These laws were of two major types. The first type, providing for guided discretion, was upheld by the Supreme Court in three related cases: Gregg v. Georgia (1976), Jurek v. Texas (1976), and Proffitt v. Florida (1976). The Georgia, Texas, and Florida statutes validated by the U.S. Supreme Court afforded sentencing courts the discretion to impose death sentences for specified crimes and provided for two-stage, or "bifurcated," trials, involving in the first stage the determination of a defendant's guilt or innocence and, in the second, determination of the sentence after consideration of aggravating and mitigating circumstances. In Georgia and Texas, the final sentencing decision rested with the jury, and in Florida with the judge.
     Those laws which provided a mandatory death penalty for specific crimes, and allowing no judicial or jury discretion beyond the determination of guilt, were declared unconstitutional in Woodson v. North Carolina (1976) and Roberts v. Louisiana (1976). These rulings led directly to the invalidation of mandatory death penalty statutes in 21 states, and resulted in the modification of the sentences of hundreds of offenders from death to life imprisonment.

Executions Resume: The first execution under the new death penalty laws took place on January 17, 1977, when convicted murdered Gary Gilmore (not of “Gilmore Girls” fame) was executed by firing squad in Utah. Gilmore's was the first execution in the United States since 1967. Two prisoners were executed in 1979; one in 1981; two in 1982; and five in 1983. Executions increased dramatically in 1984, with 21 in that year, and there have been at least 10 executions in the U.S. every year since. There were 74 executions in 1997. From 1977 to 1997, a total of 432 executions took place. Of the executed prisoners during this period, 266 were white, 161 were black, and five were of other races. By the end of 1997, 38 states and the federal government had capital punishment law; 12 states (including Alaska) have no death penalty. (Bureau of Justice Statistics annual bulletins on capital punishment provide current information on U.S. jurisdictions which authorize the death penalty.) By the end of 1996, 3,219 prisoners were under sentence of death, including 3,208 in 34 states and 11 under federal jurisdiction. All were convicted of murder. Please see graph attached to this packet.

Supreme Court Decisions Refine Death Penalty Laws: In 1977, the Supreme Court declared in Coker v. Georgia (1977) that applying the death penalty in rape cases was unconstitutional because the sentence was disproportionate to the crime. Coker resulted in the removal of twenty inmates -- three whites and 17 blacks -- awaiting execution on rape convictions from death rows around the country. In Lockett v. Ohio (1978), the high court forced a number of states to again revise their death penalty statutes by ruling that the sentencing authority in a capital case must consider every possible mitigating factor to the crime rather than limiting, as Ohio had, the mitigating factors that could be considered to a specific list.

Current Status: Since the 1976 Gregg decision upholding the constitutionality of Georgia's death penalty law, numerous states have reinstated capital punishment in their statutes. The most recent state to enact a death penalty law was New York in 1995. As of January 1998, 38 states and the federal government have capital punishment laws in effect. Alaska, eleven other states -- Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin -- and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico do not have a death penalty.



INTRODUCTION. In order to assess how our capital punishment (“Death Penalty”) system operates, it is important to have an overview of the functioning of the numerous legal proceedings involved in each capital case. The following chart and text provide descriptions of the various proceedings conducted in the trial, state appellate, and federal courts.

  1   2

The database is protected by copyright © 2016
send message

    Main page