The Dignity of the Condemned
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
Because contending moral intuitions about the death penalty are so strongly felt, practices regarded as unproblematic elsewhere in the administration of criminal justice inevitably become controversial in capital cases. In some contexts, disputes about particular features of the law merely echo the overarching controversy regarding the legitimacy of the death penalty itself.' In most contexts, however, the arguments center on the implications of the assertion, endorsed even by those who believe the death penalty to be legitimate, that "the penalty of death is qualitatively different" from other forms of criminal punishment.' From this premise, courts and commentators have deduced an unending series of rules and obligations uniquely applicable to capital cases. In this Article, I reflect on whether unique obligations should fall on courts and attorneys when capital defendants or condemned prisoners express a preference for execution.