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Future of America's Death Penalty Released

February 9, 2009



UAlbany School of Criminal Justice Professor James Acker

UAlbany School of Criminal Justice Professor James Acker. (Photo Mark Schmidt) 

Roughly a generation after the Supreme Court approved modern death penalty statutes in 1976, which were employed with increasing regularity through the turn of the century, both executions and annual additions to death row populations have markedly declined. Many questions abound about the future of capital punishment in this country.

These questions include:
 whether the death penalty is a deterrent or provides satisfaction to the surviving family members of murder victims;
 the cost; racial and geographical disparities; and
 the risk of convicting and executing innocent people.

Charles S. Lanier, William J. Bowers, and James R. Acker of UAlbany have co-edited a new book, The Future of America's Death Penalty: An Agenda for the Next Generation of Capital Punishment Research, that takes a look at these questions.

"Our book has been published at a time when the country appears to be at a potentially momentous crossroad regarding the death penalty," said Acker, a UAlbany School of Criminal Justice professor.

With the book and recent additions to the National Death Penalty Archive especially the Watt Espy collection that chronicles executions in America dating to colonial times Acker, Lanier, and Bowers are hoping to keep UAlbany on the forefront of capital punishment developments.

Lanier is volunteer director of the Capital Punishment Research Initiative (CPRI). Bowers is a senior research associate at the CPRI and director of the National Science Foundation-funded Capital Jury Project.

The National Death Penalty Archive, initiated by CPRI, is a collaboration with the University at Albany, and is housed in the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives in the Science Library.

Published by Carolina Academic Press, The Future of America's Death Penalty contains original chapters written by nationally distinguished scholars. The book is an ambitious effort to identify the most critical issues confronting the future of capital punishment in the United States. The authors seek to make a meaningful contribution to informed policy making in the often-contentious arenas in which decisions are made about capital punishment in this country, "particularly in this climate of apparent willingness to re-examine and examine anew the many important questions surrounding the capital sanction," Acker said.

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Kelly Virkler, '09, Department of Chemistry
UAlbany Students

In three and a half years at UAlbany, Kelly Virkler leaves with a Ph.D. and international attention for groundbreaking work related to crime scene forensic evidence.

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