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Morality and Efficacy of Criminal Law (in America) – An Advocate’s View

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Krishnaa Mahbubani.

How does criminal justice in America, especially in the States, actually work? Considerations like deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation, and disproportionate sentencing keep coming up.

Mr. Dasgupta works as an appellate death-row lawyer for Texas inmates and has had first-hand exposure to these questions. He will talk about not just his cases but also the capital cases of Charlie Hood (sentenced to death in a trial in which the judge and the prosecutor were romantically/sexually involved) and Leonel Herrera (whose actual innocence claim was thrown out as either irrelevant or less than irrefutable).

The talk will be interactive and it will end with some suggestions about what to fix and how. The two main recommendations are (i) to let a death-row defendant raise her claims after trial if her lawyer somehow missed it at trial and (ii) to stop electing local and state judges. Not to fear, we’ll also talk about the general usefulness and ethics of having a death penalty regime at all.

Bio Note

Rid Dasgupta is a currently working on international investment law at the University of Cambridge. He is associated with the Cambridge chapter of Lawyers without Borders, helping to write petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court (on behalf of Texas death-row inmates). He will serve as a visiting law scholar to Baroness Hale of Richmond (U.K. Supreme Court) during the 2010-11 Term. He can be reached at

This talk is part of the Pembroke Papers, Pembroke College series.

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