NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 77, Number 6

December 2002

Things Fall Apart, But the Center Holds: The Supreme Court and the Death Penalty

Carol S. Steiker

Last June, in the course of a week, the Supreme Court issued two death penalty decisions—Atkins v. Virginia and Ring v. Arizona— which together invalidated, at least in part, the administration of capital punishment in roughly two-thirds of the American states that currently retain the death penalty on their books. Atkins prohibited the application of the death penalty to defendants with mental retardation in the twenty states without statutes already precluding such application, and Ring precluded judges (as opposed to juries) from making factual determinations that render a defendant eligi le for capital punishment in the five states where judges alone make capital sentencing determinations. In addition, Ring is likely to affect four states with hybrid sentencing schemes that mandate shared responsibility between judges and juries.