Death Penalty Project


Undergraduate CoursesThe Cornell Death Penalty Project recently expanded its educational reach to undergraduate students. The following two courses are now available exclusively to undergraduates:

Law 405 - The Death Penalty in America
This course explores a wide range of political, legal and social issues involved in the administration of the death penalty in the United States. The course is taught by John Blume and Sheri Johnson. A variety of guest speakers add their unique experiences to the class discussions. Guests in the past have included an attorney with the Department of Justice who prosecutes capital cases, exonerated former death-row inmates, and experts on the lethal injection process, mental retardation, and juvenile brain development. Law students with experience working on capital cases lead small section discussions.

Human Development 414 - Social and Psychological Aspects of the Death Penalty
This course is co-taught by Blume and Johnson along with Dr. Charles Brainerd of the Department of Human Development. It explores the role of mental health professionals and the importance of mitigation specialists as part of the capital defense “team.” Guest speakers provide instruction on a variety of topics including how to conduct a mitigation investigation, the importance of developing a reliable social history, interviewing techniques, and victim outreach. Students conduct mock interviews and complete a mock social history report for a hypothetical capital case as their final project.