U.S.-China Death Penalty Reform Project

The U.S.-China Death Penalty Reform Project of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute (USALI) at New York University School of Law is a product of cooperation between USALI and Chinese experts during the recent period of death penalty law reform in China and the U.S. It includes the full text of USALI’s U.S. death penalty law casebook, The Contemporary American Struggle with Death Penalty Law: Selected Topics and Cases, in English and Chinese, and an online forum for discussion and questions.

The casebook responds to the request of our Chinese colleagues to learn more about the experience of other relevant jurisdictions, most immediately by examining how the death penalty is administered in the United States. While the American legal system, experience and reform path differ in many ways from those of China, some of the challenges confronted by each nation are similar.

The casebook presents primary source materials and scholarly commentary that demonstrate the contemporary American approach to shared problems such as: What crimes should be viewed as “the most serious” and thus be eligible for the death penalty? What procedures can guarantee consistency in the handling of death penalty cases, but allow also for individualized sentencing consideration of each defendant’s unique circumstances? Are some types of defendants, such as the elderly, the young or the mentally ill, so vulnerable as to deservemercy for that reason alone or so impaired that they cannot be held to sustain absolute criminal responsibility? How can the legal system satisfy demands for the protection of international human rights, fundamental fairness and the rule of law, but also respond to the demands of both those victimized by crimes and the public at large?

In the U.S., restrictions on the use of the death penalty, with a few notable exceptions, have arisen from court interpretations of state and federal constitutional guarantees of due process, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and equal protection. As our common law system requires, these interpretations arise from concrete cases. American lawyers begin their training by learning how to read court opinions and derive principles of law from the courts’ holdings and analyses. Thus this text presents the law through the courts’ own language when possible. Yet, to assist in the understanding of the courts’ opinions and the broader ramifications of each case, the authors have also interspersed commentary. With explanatory commentary, the judicial opinions should be more accessible to a community that is not steeped in the Anglo-American traditions of the judicial process.

Our goal has been to create a casebook that will offer readers some new perspectives on American efforts to cope with death penalty legal dilemmas, and thereby contribute to China’s ongoing consideration of further reforms of its own law and practice. We hope that the availability of this material, as part of this online resource, will provide a space for comparative legal learning through discussion of shared issues by Chinese and American scholars, practitioners and students, and netizens worldwide.





这本案例选编为读者呈现了原始资料和学术评 论,体现了当代美国在应对这些共同的问题时所采取的方法,诸如:什么样的犯罪行为应当被视为是“最严重”的犯罪并因此可以适用死刑?什么样的程序可以保证 死刑案件处理的一致性,但是同时又允许对每一个被告独特的情况予以个别化量刑考虑?某些类型的被告,诸如老年人、青少年和精神病人,他们是否如此弱势以至 于单凭这个原由他们就应该获得宽宥,或者说,他们的能力是否受损到了不能要求他们承担完全刑事责任的程度?法律制度该如何满足国际人权、基本公平和法治所 提出的保障要求,但是同时也能够回应犯罪行为被害人和普通大众的要求?

除了一些明显的例外情况,美国限制死刑的适 用。这些限制源自法院对州和联邦宪法有关公民权利保障规定的解读。这些权利保障规定包括正当程序、免受残酷和不寻常的处罚以及平等保护。根据我们普通法制 度的要求,这些解释来源于具体的案件。美国律师所接受的培训始于学习如何解读法院的判决意见书并且从法院的判决和分析中提炼出法律原则。因此,本书正文尽 可能地通过法院的原文来呈现相关法律。然而,为了帮助读者理解法院的判决意见书和每一个案件所衍生出的广泛问题,作者们还在文中穿插了相关评论。对于那些 并没有接受过盎格鲁美利坚司法制度传统熏陶的读者而言,在解释性评论的帮助下,这些法院判决意见应该会变得更易于理解。

我们的目标是撰写一本案例书,介绍美国为应对 死刑法律两难困境所作出的努力,为读者提供一些崭新的视角,借此为中国当前就进一步改革死刑相关法律和实务所展开的思考作出贡献。我们希望,这些资料,作 为网上资源的一部分,可以促使中美两国的学者、实务工作人员和学生以及全世界的网民探讨共同的问题,为比较法研究提供一个空间。



Book Contents

Credits & Acknowledgements


Editor’s Note

Chapter 1.    Arbitrariness and the Death Penalty under U.S. Supreme Court Law/美国最高法院判例法下的恣意性和死刑


Chapter 2.    Bifurcated Trials: Eligibility and Selection Decisions in Capital Cases/两段式审理:死刑案件中的资格审查和择刑


Chapter 3.    Standards of Proof in Death Penalty Proceedings/死刑程序中的证明标准


Chapter 4.    The Death Penalty for Non-Homicide Drug Trafficking?  Kennedy v. Louisiana and the Federal Death Penalty Act/对非致命性贩运毒品适用死刑?肯尼迪诉路易斯安那州(Kennedy v. Louisiana)与《联邦死刑法案》


Chapter 5.    Defendants with Mental Disorders and the U.S. Death Penalty/罹患精神障碍的被告与美国的死刑制度


Chapter 6.    The Role of Victims in Death Penalty Sentencing Decisions: Payne v. Tennessee/死刑量刑中的被害人角色:佩恩诉田纳西州 (Payne v. Tennessee)


Chapter 7.    Elderly Persons Facing the Death Penalty/对老年人适用死刑


Chapter 8.    Death Penalty Sentencing in Joint Crimes: The Teresa Lewis Case/共同犯罪的死刑量刑:特瑞莎∙路易斯(Teresa Lewis)案

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