The Non-Zero-Sum Game of Justice Administration

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The Non-Zero-Sum Game of Justice Administration Sean Anthony Minor TA: Cecilia Stepp PHIL 140
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The Non-Zero-Sum Game of Justice Administration Dr. James Acker’s normative article is aptly titled, “Actual Innocence: Is Death Different?” The moral gravity with regards to sentencing another human being to death in undeniable, therefore America’s justice system has implemented numerous preventative measures and provisions within the court system as a means to avoid wrongful convictions. However, Dr. Acker believes that the safeguards specific to death- penalty cases should also inform the way in which our justice system handles all criminal cases. The “death is different” doctrine is a term that Dr. Acker uses consistently throughout his article to refer to the discrepancy between the ways America’s court system treats capital cases regarding death-penalty eligibility versus other criminal cases. Dr. Acker argues that since the inception of America’s justice system, it has been an unwritten conditional rule that if society is going to condemn a man to the irreversible punishment of death then we want to be as sure as possible that that man is guilty. This “death is different” doctrine was incorporated into the United States Supreme Court officially in Woodson v North Carolina , 1976 when the justices provided a basic foundation for how the death penalty should be regarded: “Death, in its finality, differs more from life imprisonment than a 100-year prison term differs from one of only a year or two. Because of the qualitative difference, there is a corresponding difference in the need for reliability in the determination that death is the appropriate punishment in a specific case.” Upon that official decree the court cast a wide net of safeguards in order to protect defendants that did not have the capability to understand the severity of their actions (i.e.
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