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AUP Welcomes Harvard Professor Carol S. Steiker

to Discuss Her Latest Book: Courting Death

On March 15th, The American University of Paris welcomed Carol S. Steiker, the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School, to discuss her latest book, Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment. The book was co-authored with her brother, Jordan Steiker of the University of Texas School of Law. She spoke to a packed house after receiving, in her words, “perhaps the finest introduction” she had ever had from AUP President Schenk who spoke about Steiker’s numerous interests and accomplishments.

Steiker’s talk focused on the death penalty as it has been used in the US, from the early lynchings in the 1800s and 1900s, to slaves and women being burned at the stake, to the firing squads, gas chambers and lethal injections that followed. However, she said, although these acts were horrible, the death penalty is in fact constitutionally protected as a form of punishment. What has really led the Supreme Court to get involved in the question of the death penalty has been race, Steiker argued.

The wide-ranging conversation touched on numerous landmark rulings in by the US Supreme Court, from Plessy v. Ferguson to Brown v. Board of Education, as Steiker traced the history of the Supreme Court’s involvement in capital punishment, as well as the cost of holding capital trials and the effect this has on state budgets.

Steiker is a specialist in the field of criminal law. Her work involves research and activity in criminal law, criminal procedure, institutional design and has a particular focus on capital punishment. Her most recent publications address topics ranging from the role of mercy in the institutions of criminal justice to the relationship of criminal justice scholarship to law reform.

While attending Harvard Law School, Steiker was the second woman to ever serve as President of the Harvard Law Review. She was a clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals as well as Justice Thurgood Marshall of the US Supreme Court. She has also worked as a staff attorney for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.

Outside of her duties at Harvard Law School, Steiker works on pro-bono litigation projects on behalf of socioeconomically challenged criminal defendants and death penalty cases in the US Supreme Court. She also serves as a consultant or expert witness on issues of criminal justice for NGOs and has testified before Congress and various state legislatures.