In July 2020, the death penalty attracted national attention when the Trump Administration and the Department of Justice reinstituted federal executions for the first time in more than 17 years. Ultimately, the administration carried out an unprecedented 13 executions in six months. The death penalty continues to make headlines today amid several recent important developments. In this episode, WilmerHale podcast co-host and Partner John Walsh welcomes Partner Seth Waxman and guest Professor Carol Steiker for an in-depth discussion of the death penalty in America.
Waxman, who is the co-chair of WilmerHale’s Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Practice, served as Solicitor General of the United States from 1997 through January 2001. He is one of the country’s foremost appellate advocates, including in death penalty cases. He has represented death row inmates over the course of 36 years while in private law practice, and has argued and won several death penalty cases in the US Supreme Court. Those victories include Roper v. Simmons, in which the Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. Most recently, Waxman was part of a team of WilmerHale lawyers who represented Wes Purkey, a federal inmate who was executed in July 2020.
Steiker is the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard faculty sponsor of the Capital Punishment Clinic. She served as the faculty co-director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Policy Program from 2015–2020. A former law clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Professor Steiker focuses on criminal justice, with an emphasis on issues related to capital punishment. She is an author on death penalty matters, including the recent book Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment, which she co-authored with her brother Jordan Steiker, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.