Susan A. Bandes of DePaul University College of Law authored “The Death Penalty and the Misleading Concept of ‘Closure’” published by The Crime Report on Jan 8. 2020. The following is an excerpt.

When William Barr first served as U.S. Attorney General, in the first Bush administration, he supported the death penalty based on its deterrent and retributive value. Until he departed last month, he remained a steadfast supporter of capital punishment.

But his rationale changed. In announcing the ramp-up of the federal machinery of death that has led so far to ten executions in the past five months (with yet another one, the execution of Lisa Montgomery, scheduled for a week before the end of President Trump’s term), Barr stated that “we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

Barr’s shift mirrored a subtle but powerful change in the national conversation about capital punishment. As the deterrence rationale proved hard to justify, and the retributive rationale began to sound too angry and vengeful, both have been replaced with a kinder, gentler-sounding justification: by carrying out executions we can honor the victims and help their families heal.

Read the full piece here.

Susan A. Bandes

DePaul University - College of Law

Susan Bandes is widely known as a scholar in the areas of federal jurisdiction, criminal procedure and civil rights, and more recently, as a pioneer in the emerging study of the role of emotion in law. Her legal career began in 1976 at the Illinois Office of the State Appellate Defender. In 1980, she became staff counsel for the Illinois A.C.L.U., where she litigated a broad spectrum of civil rights cases, and helped draft and secure passage of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. She joined the DePaul faculty in 1984, and was named a distinguished research professor in 2003. She has received numerous awards from both the law school and the university for her teaching, scholarship and service.


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