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ISSN 2611-8858


Death penalty

A look back at the Supreme Court’s October 2018 term

The text, after a general overview of the current composition of the U.S. Supreme Court, with reference to its ideological balance, proceeds to the review of the main decisions issued during the 2018/2019 Term, with particular attention to the constitutional-criminal jurisprudence. Two judgments on the principle of legality, drafted by the originalist/textualist Justice Neil Gorsuch are examined, highlighting his contribution to strengthening that constitutional safeguard. We then proceed to the examination of the recent death penalty jurisprudence, a context in which the strengthened conservative majority, in order to guarantee at all costs the effectiveness of the extreme sanction and the protection of the victim rights, seems to give a new "restrictive" turn to the interpretation of the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and to the criteria for assessing last-minute petitions by capital convicts. This trend could call into question several settled precedents. Taking into account other criminal law decisions issued in the Term just ended, we focus conclusively on the cases that will be decided in the upcoming 2019/2020 Term, positing what could be some of the future developments in the criminal law area

The Gallows and Life Imprisonment from Liberal Italy to Fascism

This paper analyzes the problematic relationship between the death penalty and life imprisonment. It starts off with some indispensable references to the thought of Beccaria, as well as to some criminal legislation in force in the late 18th century and in the first half of the 19th century. The essay then examines the main steps in the long and troubled path that led to the enactment of a national penal code in 1889 and to the replacement of capital punishment with life imprisonment. In order to accomplish this goal, which had been hindered by many, lawmakers had to make the punishment as intimidating as possible and guarantee the offender’s removal from society, as such offenders were presumed to be incorrigible. Many people exalted the reform as a great victory, but others criticized it for the heavy ways in which the punishment was executed. In the Fascist period, the individualistic ideology of the liberal era was replaced by an authoritarian conception that placed the purposes and interests of the State before those of individuals. This meant that the interests of citizens and even their very lives could be sacrificed for the preservation and defense of the State. On the basis of these assumptions, the attacks against the prime minister provided the opportunity to reintroduce capital punishment, at first with the 1926 law, and then firmly with the Rocco Code; life imprisonment, however, was mitigated.