Thursday, June 22, 2017

History of Capital Punishment in America

On June 29, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Furman v. Georgia, which held that imposing death sentences on three inmates would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Expressing concerns about "arbitrary and discriminatory" imposition of capital punishment, the Court's per curiam opinion effectively suspended death sentences in the U.S. (Just four years later, the Court would reinstate the death penalty with its 7-2 opinion in Gregg v. Georgia, which reviewed amended Georgia statutes concerning capital punishment.)

As discussed in both Supreme Court opinions, and in countless articles and books, capital punishment in America has a long and controversial history. While the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited "cruel and unusual punishment," the death penalty was common in every state, and the federal Crimes Act of 1790 (1 Stat. 112, c. 9) included death as the punishment for treason against the United States, willful murder, piracy, forgery or counterfeiting, or rescuing any prisoners who had been found guilty in capital cases. However, the concerns expressed in Furman about arbitrary and discriminatory application of the death penalty continue, as well as fears of sending the wrongfully-accused to their deaths: the University of Michigan's National Registry of Exonerations lists 117 death-row inmates convicted in the last fifty years who were subsequently exonerated.

HeinOnline has recently released a new library of resources related to the History of Capital Punishment, available to all researchers within the Duke University campus and also available off-campus with a current Duke University NetID and password. The collection includes the Eugene G. Wanger and Marilyn M. Wanger Death Penalty Collection: A Descriptive Bibliography, a three-volume reference work providing information about relevant books, articles, congressional hearings, and other materials. Bibliography entries link to full text if it is available within HeinOnline's large collection of research resources. (The full Wanger Death Penalty Collection is an archival set housed by the Special Collections & Archives at SUNY Albany).

For additional resources on the history of capital punishment, try a search of the Duke University Libraries catalog for the subject heading "Capital punishment -- United States – History" or "Capital punishment – United States" for more general titles. For help using the new Hein library or locating other resources on the topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Introductions to International Law

From continuing discussions of Brexit, to the Paris Agreement withdrawal announcement, to concerns over the legality of U.S. airstrikes in Syria, international law is a frequent topic in the news lately. If you'd like to learn more about international law, the Goodson Law Library's recently-updated International Law research guide recommends some good starting places.
  • Just need to brush up on the basics? Try the Study Aids section for some titles like Understanding International Law and International Law: A Very Short Introduction.
  • Want an explanation of core concepts? Check out the Treatises section for some seminal works from notable scholars.
  • Need guidance in researching a specific international law topic? Try the Research Guides section, or explore the print and online series of Research Handbooks in International Law.
The Goodson Law Library collection contains thousands of titles on international law topics; additional titles are available across campus, or electronically. To locate your perfect international law introduction, try the research guide's recommended searches of the Duke University Libraries catalog or Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

LexisNexis Acquires Ravel Law

Today, LexisNexis announced that it has acquired Ravel Law (press release). Developed by a team of Stanford Law graduates in 2012, Ravel quickly became known for its visual presentation of case law search results (ABA Journal 2014 cover story), and later for its ambitious partnership with Harvard Law Library to digitize historical case reporters and make them freely available to researchers. (Lexis, Ravel, and Harvard each confirmed in separate statements that the acquisition will not change the Caselaw Access Project's mission to provide open access to historical case law materials.)

Ravel also became known for its data analytics products, including Judge Analytics and Court Analytics, both featured in the Goodson Law Library research guide Directories of Courts & Judges. (A new product, Firm Analytics, was also recently announced, but is not yet available for subscriber trial access.)

Ravel will continue to operate under its current web interface until the end of the year, as its contents become integrated into their future home at Lexis Litigation Profile Suite® and Lexis Advance®. Early 2018 is the target date to switch Ravel users to Lexis completely. Duke users may continue to sign up for a Ravel Law account, which includes access to Court and Judge Analytics, with their Duke email address.

For help using Ravel, Lexis, or other legal research services, be sure to Ask a Librarian.