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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Marilie Coetsee

Second Advisor

Dr. Thad Williamson

Third Advisor

Dr. Terry Price


My thesis argues that just as the 'insanity' defense makes it appropriate for courts to excuse people from punishments, facts about people's upbringings--and the characters that those upbringings give rise to--may make it appropriate for courts to excuse people from punishments that they may otherwise have been justifiably subject to. When people are arbitrarily subject to bad upbringings that produce bad character traits, and when those character traits then lead them to commit crimes that would otherwise be punishable by death, the death penalty is not appropriate. First, I explore moral responsibility as it relates to character and actions that arise from character. Second, I argue that whether or not we can distinguish between those who are morally responsible for their character and those who are not, we can distinguish between them from the standpoint of political philosophy and how they should be held legally accountable for their actions. Finally, I consider the utilitarian objection that the death penalty is needed for its deterrence value. I respond with the claim that a deterrence justification for the death penalty is ineffective for individuals who lack a capacity for self-revision, which includes many individuals on death row.

Available for download on Monday, June 08, 2099