The Impermissibility of Execution

In Matthew C. Altman (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook on the Philosophy of Punishment. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 747-769 (2022)
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Abstract

This chapter offers a proceduralist argument against capital punishment. More specifically, it contends that the possibility of irrevocable mistakes precludes the just administration of the death penalty. At stake is a principle of political morality: legal institutions must strive to remedy their mistakes and to compensate those who suffer from wrongful sanctions. The incompatibility of remedy and execution is the crux of the irrevocability argument: because the wrongly executed cannot enjoy the morally required compensation, execution is impermissible. Along with defending his key premises, Yost explains the complicated role that sentencing uncertainty plays in the argument. He concludes by noting some of the flaws in substantive consequentialist and retributivist justifications of capital punishment.

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Benjamin S. Yost
Cornell University

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