Frank R. Baumgartner

Frank R. Baumgartner is the Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the co-author of The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence (Cambridge, 2008), and is preparing a new book, A Statistical Portrait of the Death Penalty.

Recent Articles

Forty Years of Experience with the ‘New and Improved’ Death Penalty, 1976–2016

Four decades after the creation of the modern death penalty, the system remains racially biased, costly, and prone to error.

AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File
July 2, 2016, marked the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in Gregg v. Georgia validating the modern death penalty. Four years earlier, the Court had invalidated all existing capital punishment laws in Furman , leading to the rapid revision of capital punishment laws in 37 states. Gregg was the opportunity for the Court to determine if these “new and improved” laws passed the constitutional bar that the old laws had been seen to fail. Safeguards mandated by the Court included reserving the penalty only for those found guilty of certain specified crimes, such as particularly heinous murders involving torture, rape, or the killing of a police officer; separating out the trial of guilt or innocence from a separate penalty phase during which aggravating and mitigating factors would be considered; and mandating appellate “proportionality review” to ensure that the punishment was in fact being used for the “worst of the worst.”...