Paolo Passaglia

Judicial Abolition of Capital Punishment and the U.S. Paradox

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Justice Breyer recently evoked the need for the U.S. Supreme Court to deal with the issue of the constitutionality of capital punishment. The article analyzes the cases in which a judicial abolition occurred: since the abolition of capital punishment is generally the result of political processes, there are only few examples worldwide in which the abolition was decided by courts, in the U.S. and, later, in Eastern Europe and South Africa. Most notably, there are several features that distinguish judicial abolition in the U.S. and in the rest of the world and that suggest that what happened in some European countries and in South Africa during the 90s is unlikely to happen in the near future in the U.S.: taking into account past American judicial abolitions, without a political support a possible judgment by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring capital punishment unconstitutional would hardly lead to a long-lasting abolition.


  • Capital Punishment
  • Judicial Abolition
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Constitution
  • Judicial Review of Legislation


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