1. Introduce the lesson by asking students if they are aware of recent debates over capital punishment, particularly the introduction of new DNA technology that has resulted in the release of a number of prisoners who have been wrongly incarcerated, and the actions of some state governors (notably Illinois) who have turned all death sentances into life without parole sentances.
2. Using the websites listed below, divide the class into several groups, each one responsible for researching one aspect of this topic:
- history of the death penalty
- stages in a capital case
- methods of execution still used and where
- the details of Furman v. Georgia 408 U.S. 153 (1972)
- arguments for the death penalty
- arguments against the death penalty
- the status of the death penalty in Illinois
3. When the research is complete, ask students to share their information, either verbally, or through posters or PowerPoint presentations.
4. Engage students in discussion about their findings. Students may also engage in a formal debate or deliberation on the issue.
This lesson might be extended in a number of ways:
- students might contact their state legislators for information and stands on the issue
- students might research additional court cases on the issue
- students might argue any or all of the four cases found at: