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April 1, 2010

Capital Punishment Center to host conference on legislative developments on the death penalty April 9–10, 2010

The University of Texas School of Law’s Capital Punishment Center will host a conference on legislative developments concerning the American death penalty on April 9–10.  “The American Death Penalty in the Twenty-first Century: the Direction of Legislative Change and the Prospects for Legislative Abolition” will bring together lawyers and lawmakers from around the country to talk about efforts to abolish the death penalty (New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Colorado, Kansas) as well as efforts to expand it (Georgia, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Hampshire) and reform it (North Carolina, Maryland, California). 

State legislatures have been reevaluating the emotionally and politically charged issue of capital punishment.  While national public opinion polls show broad support for the death penalty in the abstract, states like New Mexico and New Jersey have abolished capital punishment outright within the last three years, and other states have seen similar proposals closely contested and only narrowly defeated. These new legislative battles over the death penalty reflect longstanding concerns:  the financial cost of death penalty trials and appeals; the ever-present risk of wrongful conviction; the enduring stain of racial discrimination; and more.  The symposium will explore this newly active legislative foment around capital punishment, closely examining the experience in particular states to see whether any broader lessons may be drawn with respect to the future of state legislative efforts to abolish, limit, and reform the death penalty.

The panels will convene in the Eidman Courtroom, beginning at 10:15 a.m. on April 9 and at 8:30 a.m. on April 10.  The full program is as follows:

 Friday, April 9

10:15 a.m.: Welcoming Remarks (Dean Larry Sager, UT School of Law, Jordan Steiker, Professor, UT School of Law)

10:30 a.m.– noon: National Perspective on Recent Developments (Shari Silberstein, executive director, Equal Justice USA; Dick Dieter, executive director, Death Penalty Information Center; Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Moderator: Maurie Levin, UT School of Law)

12:15 p.m.– 1:30 p.m.: break

1:30 p.m.– 3:00 p.m.: Abolition Achieved: The Experiences in New Mexico, New Jersey, and New York (Shari Silberstein, executive director, Equal Justice USA; Viki Elkey, director, New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty; Jonathan Gradess, executive director, New York State Defender’s Association. Moderator: Jordan Steiker, UT School of Law)

3:15 p.m.– 4:30 p.m.: Study and Reform of the Death Penalty: Maryland and California (Dick Dieter, executive director, Death Penalty Information Center; Amy Fusting, program director, Maryland Citizens Against State Executions; Gerald Uelmen, dean, Santa Clara School of Law. Moderator: Jordan Steiker, UT School of Law)

Saturday, April 10

8:30 a.m.– 9:45 a.m.: Reintroduction, Expansion and Administration of the Death Penalty:  Georgia, Virginia, and Massachusetts (Chris Adams, Law Office of Chris Adams, Atlanta, Georgia; Beth Panilaitis, executive director, Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty; Renny Cushing, New Hampshire House of Representatives, executive director, Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights. Moderator: Rob Owen, UT School of Law)

9:45 a.m.– 11:00 a.m.: Abolition Contested: The Experiences in Colorado, Kansas, and New Hampshire (Michael Radelet, professor, University of Colorado at Boulder; Donna Schneweis, State Death Penalty Abolition coordinator, Amnesty International; Renny Cushing, New Hampshire House of Representatives, executive director, Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights. Moderator: Jordan Steiker, UT School of Law)

11:00 a.m.– 12:15 p.m.: Reform to Redress Race Discrimination: The Experience in North Carolina (Rob Owen, professor, UT School of Law; Ken Rose, senior attorney, Center for Death Penalty Litigation; Larry Womble, state representative, North Carolina. Moderator: Maurie Levin, UT School of Law)

The conference is free and open to the public. Information regarding directions and parking can be found on the Law School’s website.

Contact: Kirston Fortune, UT Law Communications, 512-471-7330, or kfortune@law.utexas.edu