LAW REVIEW: Death Penalty Stories

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review recently published a symposium issue of Death Penalty Stories, highlighting the role of the narrative in the defense of death penalty cases. The compilation includes contributions from litigators who have used persuasive narrative in support of a life sentence. Russell Stetler’s The Unknown Story of a Motherless Child chronicles the case of Edgar H., who was convicted of killing four men in California. Edgar’s traumatic childhood was influential in negotiating a sentence of life instead of death. Dr. Craig Haney’s article, On Mitigation as Counter-Narrative: A Case Study of the Hidden Context of Prison Violence, introduces the concept of the "master narrative," the official story--often laden with inflammatory rhetoric--that public officials supply to the media and that sets the stage for a capital trial ending in a death sentence. Haney argues that “more accurate information about the role of adverse social histories and powerful social conditions" might lead to more informed public debate over the utility of capital punishment.

Other articles in the volume include Michael Mello's What Came Before We Killed Him: Deconstructing Execution #58,  and The Importance of Storytelling at All Stages of a Capital Case by Michael N. Burt.  Other authors include attorneys Sean O'Brien, John Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, Mark Olive, Marc Bookman and Denny LeBoeuf.

(77 University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review 831, Summer 2009). See also Law Review and Representation.