Last updated on: 12/6/2016 | Author:

Joseph M. Bessette, PhD Biography

Alice Tweed Tuohy Professor of Government and Ethics at Claremont McKenna College
Pro to the question "Should the Death Penalty Be Legal?"

“[W]e reserve the death penalty in the United States for the most heinous murders and the most brutal and conscienceless murderers. This is not, as some critics argue, a kind of state-run lottery that randomly chooses an unlucky few for the ultimate penalty from among all those convicted of murder. Rather, the capital punishment system is a filter that selects the worst of the worst…

Put another way, to sentence killers like those described above to less than death would fail to do justice because the penalty – presumably a long period in prison – would be grossly disproportionate to the heinousness of the crime. Prosecutors, jurors, and the loved ones of murder victims understand this essential point…

Perhaps most importantly, in its supreme gravity it [the death penalty] promotes belief in and respect for the majesty of the moral order and for the system of human law that both derives from and supports that moral order.”

“Why the Death Penalty Is Still Necessary,”, July 21, 2016

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Alice Tweed Tuohy Professor, Government and Ethics, Claremont McKenna College, 1990-present
  • Associate Director, Salvatori Center, Claremont McKenna College, July 1995-June 2008
  • Member, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Police Hiring and Promotion, 1990-1993
  • Acting Director, Bureau of Justice Statistics, United States Department of Justice, Sep. 1988-July 1990
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Government, Georgetown University, Aug. 1988-June 1989
  • Deputy Director for Data Analysis, Bureau of Justice Statistics, United States Department of Justice, Jan. 1985-Sep. 1988
  • Director of Planning, Training, and Management, Cook County (Chicago, IL) State’s Attorney’s Office, June 1981-Dec. 1984
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Political Science, University of Chicago, Sep. 1983-June 1984
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Politics, Catholic University of America,1979-1981
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia, 1977-1979
  • PhD, Political Science, University of Chicago, 1977
  • MA, History of Science, University of Chicago, 1972
  • BS, Physics, Boston College, 1970
  • None found
Quoted in:
  1. Is the Death Penalty Immoral?