• Journal of Public Law and Policy Symposia

    Spring 2015 Symposium: The Death Penalty Debate in America: Effectiveness, Fairness, Constitutionality, and Other Considerations

    Jennifer Nepstad, Symposium Editor, jnepstad01@hamline.edu

    About the Symposium

    The Journal of Public Law and Policy at Hamline University School of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota, will host a symposium on Friday, March 27, 2015, entitled, "The Death Penalty Debate in America: Effectiveness, Fairness, Constitutionality, and Other Considerations." This symposium will gather scholars, policy makers, activists, and community members to discuss capital punishment in America both at the state and federal level. Some of the central issues to be addressed at the symposium include the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishments; the death penalty's deterrent effect; whether the death penalty is fairly administered; how the death penalty compares financially to alternative forms of punishment; executing individuals despite doubts of guilt; crime in Minnesota before and after abolishing the death penalty; and the future of the death penalty in America.

    Importance of Topic

    The death penalty has deep roots in the United States. In 32 states, it still serves as the ultimate penalty for criminals who have committed the most heinous of crimes. Minnesota abolished the death penalty in 1911, choosing to no longer equate justice with death. Declining public support for capital punishment in recent years, coupled with several botched executions by lethal injection, has brought the death penalty debate to the forefront of both scholarly and popular discussion. Through a well-balanced symposium, we seek to explore whether Minnesota is on the appropriate side of the death penalty debate, and whether the death penalty's roots will remain firmly planted in this country.

    Academic institutions are considered to be the marketplaces of ideas, and in that role, they serve as places of conversation and debate. We believe it is the duty of academic institutions like Hamline University School of Law to host these scholarly conversations and encourage dialogue about important topics such as capital punishment.


    • Professor John Bessler, University of Baltimore School of Law; Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
    • John Malcolm, Director and Ed Gilbertson and Sherry Lindberg Gilbertson Senior Legal Fellow, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation
    • Vernetta Alston, Staff Attorney, The Center for Death Penalty Litigation
    • Dr. Saby Ghoshray, President, Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies; Director, World Compliance Company
    • Julie Jonas, Legal Director, Minnesota Innocence Project; Adjunct Professor at Hamline University School of Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law, University of Minnesota Law School
    • Professor J. Richard Broughton, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law


    • Professor Peter Thompson, Retired Professor, Hamline University School of Law
    • Michael Browne, Director, Office of Police Conduct Review, Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights; Adjunct Professor, University of St. Thomas School of Law


    Free for students with a valid ID; $20 for Hamline Law alumni (graduated between 2011-2014); $30 for non-legal community attendees; $100 for all other Hamline Law alumni; $135 for non-Hamline Law alumni with registration form submitted before 02/27/2015; $165 for non-Hamline law alumni form submitted after 02/27/2015. SPECIAL OFFER: $600 for a table of 8!


    To register, click here 

    Questions can be directed to Deb Lange at dlange@hamline.edu or 651-523-2122

    Call for Paper and Speaking Abstracts

    We invite individuals to submit abstracts of papers and/or personal memoirs/oral histories for an opportunity to present at the symposium. The revised and edited submissions may subsequently be published in the Fall 2015 edition of the Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy.  

    Download the full Call for Paper and Speaking Abstracts to get submission details.

    Past Symposia Topics

    Other past JPLP symposia have explored similar critical issues.