: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at

Houston Law Review Article on Death Penalty Profiled in New York Times

The New York Times’ Adam Liptak highlights a forthcoming article from the Houston Law Review in today’s A New Look at Race When Death Is Sought. In Racial Disparities in the Capital of Capital Punishment, Scott Phillips of the University of Denver makes a surprising finding in analysis of death penalty statistics.

A new study to be published in The Houston Law Review this fall has found two sorts of racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty there, one commonplace and one surprising.

The unexceptional finding is that defendants who kill whites are more likely to be sentenced to death than those who kill blacks. More than 20 studies around the nation have come to similar conclusions.

But the new study also detected a more straightforward disparity. It found that the race of the defendant by itself plays a major role in explaining who is sentenced to death.

We were excited about this particular piece when it first came in, but obviously this kind of attention exceeds those expectations. Our incoming editing staff deserves the lion’s share of the credit. Congrats y’all.

Stephanie Cecere, editor-in-chief of the Houston Law Review, will enter her final year at the University of Houston Law Center this fall. She expects excitement about her publication to pick up about the same time. That’s when the journal will publish an article by Scott Phillips, a professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Denver. After studying Harris County death penalty statistics, he found that — all other factors, such as the type of crime committed, being equal — a black defendant is more likely to be sentenced to death than a white defendant in Harris County.

Tex Parte Blog: Running the numbers

Sam Milsap, who prosecuted Ruben Cantu, now crusades against death penalty

Houston Chronicle: Former Bexar DA crusades against the death penalty

More on Ruben Cantu

Death Penalty Land

Twenty-four condemned Texas killers were executed in 2006, accounting for 45 percent of all the executions in the United States. While the national count of 53 was seven fewer than 2005, the Texas total was up five from the previous year.

Houston Chronicle: Executions down in U.S. but not in Texas

A while back I ran into a guy with a very rare disease who said started feeling like a show pony. His was such an unusual case that his doctors frequently invited colleagues and students to examine him at every opportunity. His checkups became something like exhibitions. He didn’t mind entirely, a lot of intellectual horsepower was being applied to his case. What bothered him was how excited the doctors would get.

Somehow this is how I feel about the death penalty in Texas. It’s one of the reasons I decided to stay in Texas for law school. Intellectually it’s an exciting issue to wrestle with. High stakes cases are exciting. Nothing is more high stakes than life or death. It’s exciting to think I might be writing habeas corpus writs someday. Is it really something I should be excited about? Hmmm.

Dow on Death Penalty: “Innocence is a Distraction”


University of Houston Law Professor David Dow had an op-ed in the NY Times not too long ago entitled The End of Innocence. It turns out to be one of the few op-eds I’ve read in recent history truely worth reading. The gist –

Innocence is a distraction. Most people on death row are like Roger Coleman, not Paul House, which is to say that most people on death row did what the state said they did. But that does not mean they should be executed.

It is arguable how distracting Dow himself is being by running the Innocence Project at the University of Houston which focuses, unsurprisingly, on exoneration, as in innocence. Dow is eloquently right that a fixation on innocence misses the point of the capital punishment debate, but we all know how well nuanced argument does on the American political stage.

Gold-medal-crazy winner, Charlie Rose interview

I had missed this article when I posted on the death penalty and Dow’s book earlier – from the NY Times Judging Whether a Killer Is Sane Enough to Die:

David R. Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston who has met more than 75 death row inmates, visited Mr. Panetti at his lawyers’ request. “Of all the people I have met on death row, he’s the gold-medal-crazy winner,” Professor Dow said.

Gold-medal-crazy winner. That cracks me up. I wonder if that’s a term of art or an actual diagnosis? That’s the danger of interviews, you say a lot of things and the reporters just grab what suits their purposes; what’s used is seldom what you yourself would have chosen to go on record with in the grey lady.

In related news, Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker was warming Charlie’s chair on the Charlie Rose show on friday to interview three attorneys with extensive experience in death penalty cases – Bryan Stevenson, NYU professor and director of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, attorney Dennis Riordan, and Beth Wilkinson, a former assistant US attorney.

The video is viewable online on Google Video: Charlie Rose, Death Penalty Conversation, after the Noam Chomsky interview, which is interesting too if you’re into cantankerousness.

Blawgraphy: Subscribe by Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner