WWS Calendar

Law in the Public Service: The Dying Death Penalty

Nov 9, 2016 06:00PM to 08:00PM


Restricted to WWS
Daniel LaChance, Emory University, History

This RSVP event is open to WWS graduate policy students interested in examining the role of law in public policy development and implementation. 


Since the mid-1990s, when 80% of Americans told Gallup they supported the death penalty, support for the death penalty has been steadily eroding. Last month, it dipped below 50% for the first time in almost 45 years. What accounts for the slow death of Americans' support for capital punishment? This conversation will explore how the answer lies, in part, in the yawning gap between the cultural life of the death penalty and its actual practice in courtrooms and execution chambers.

Daniel LaChance joined the Emory College of Arts and Sciences Department of History in the Fall of 2013. His work examines the sources, meaning, and effects of the “punitive turn” in the United States, the ratcheting up of incarceration and other forms of harsh punishment in the late 20th century. Articles he has written on this topic have appeared in the journals Law and Social Inquiry and Punishment and Society. In 2011, his dissertation, “Condemned to Be Free: The Cultural Life of Capital Punishment in the United States, 1945-Present” won the University of Minnesota’s Best Dissertation Award in the Arts and Humanities and was one of two finalists for the Distinguished Dissertation Award given by the National Council of Graduate Schools. The work examines the decline of the American death penalty in the years following World War II, its revival in the 1970s, and its subsequent use over the past thirty years. In it, he argues that shifting ideas about freedom are embedded in the way that Americans have talked about and used capital punishment.

LaChance earned his B.A. in English from Carleton College and his Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Prior to his appointment to the Emory faculty, he was an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a LAPA Fellow.