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HON 3777 – The Death Penalty (2 credits)

Spring Semester 2010;  Section 211

Syllabus (PDF)

Instructor:      Sister Edith Bogue, Ph.D.
Associate Professor,   Dept. of Psychology and Sociology

Contact Information

Texts and required materials

Bohm, Robert M.  (2007).  Deathquest III: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Capital Punishment in the United States, 2nd Edition. Cincinnati:  Anderson Publishing.

The Death Penalty class blog, written by students and faculty for the course.  Three course-specific and two news-oriented posts will be written each.

Other articles for class discussion as assigned. Articles will either be posted in the blog (links or PDFs) or distributed in class.  Students will receive different articles to increase the variety of perspectives in class discussion.

Course Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Present the history of death penalty actions and concepts in America and around the world.
  2. Describe the stages of investigation and litigation in a U.S. death penalty case, and the proportion of  cases that move forward at each phase.
  3. Present and assess the evidence regarding the deterrent impact of the death penalty.
  4. Present and assess the evidence regarding the costs of the death penalty and its alternatives.
  5. Discuss the several impacts of the death penalty on families of criminals and victims, and on those who work as lawyers, guards, and executioners in the justice system.
  6. Identify the legal major issues in current death penalty cases, and give a brief summary of the various perspectives on the issues.
  7. Analyze the ethics, meanings, and technicalities of methods of execution and their rituals.
  8. Compare and contrast the perspectives of major religious groups regarding the death penalty.
  9. Connect the death penalty stance of major religious groups to core beliefs about human beings, their relationship to each other, and their relationship to God.
  10. Understand and evaluate news reports regarding capital crime and the death penalty.
  11. Consider positions on the death penalty as elements of broader political, philosophical and religious systems, and the role death penalty opinion plays in maintaining or challenging those systems.
  12. Discuss the economic impact of death row and maximum security prisons in the life of the cities and states which house them.
  13. Formulate, express, and defend a nuanced ethical position on the death penalty.

HON 2777 The Death Penalty and the College Outcomes and Pathways

Click on the link for information on the relationship between these course outcomes and the College Outcomes and Pathways.

Course Grades and Requirements

Your course grade is based on class preparation and participation, blog assignments, chapter quizzes, and a significant project.

Preparation and participation:……………………………… 10 pts

Five Blog Assignments………………………………………. 25 pts

Nine Chapter Quizzes………………………………………… 45 pts

Project……………………………………………………………… 20 pts

Preparation and Participation is demonstrated by raising factual or intriguing questions, responding to other students’ comments in ways that show knowledge of the reading, and by posting insightful comments to other students news and research blog posts. At least 2/3 of your participation in this Honors class is expected to be verbal interaction in the classroom.

Five blog assignments: Over the course of the semester, each student will write five blog postings on the class blog, one of each type:

  • Summary of the chapter reading for the upcoming class, including key vocabulary and facts
  • Three thought-provoking discussion questions grounded in the reading for the upcoming class
  • Your own research to extend knowledge beyond the textbook on a topic in the current chapter
  • A short essay pondering the meaning of a news item in light of the material learned so far in the course and your own knowledge.
  • Participation in an online discussion of the film At the Death House Door

Nine Chapter Quizzes: Each day on which a chapter from the Bohm book is read will end with a 5 point quiz covering the important point, names, dates, and terms.

Project: Each student will select a topic of interest and, in consultation with me, produce a finished product based on research using at least 6 reliable academic sources synthesized or placed in dialogue with each other. The project will result in a 10-12 page paper or, if another type of product is approved ahead of time, an equivalent amount of knowledge and thought should be evident.

Students who plan to use this course to meet one of the General Education Pathways should meet with me early in the semester to begin to design not only their project but some of their blog assignments around the outcomes of that Pathway.

Schedule of Individual Blog Assignments

Click on link above to see the list of blog assignments for each student throughout the semester.

Schedule of Topics and Chapters

Click on link above to see schedule of Topics and Chapter Readings

Course Policies

Click on the link above to see policies related to missed classes and exams, and other issues with the course.  Also included are statements regarding Academic Honesty and Students with Disabilities.


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