rade 11, 12 Life and Death Issues: Death Penalty

West Haven Public Schools

Unit Planning Organizer

Subject      Issues in Government                                

Grade: 11 & 12

Unit    Life and Death Issues: Death Penalty           

Pacing: 2nd MP (last unit)

Essential Question(s):

1.     How do restrictions on the death penalty differ throughout the USA?

2.     How has the Supreme Court influenced state policies on capital punishment?

3.     How has scientific advancement on our society changed the use of the death penalty on the USA?

4.     To what extent do other countries use the death penalty?


Big Idea(s)

1.     Death penalty policies are changing and vary from one state to the next.

2.     The Supreme Court has influenced death penalty policies in regards to age, mental ability and race of the accused.

3.     Scientific advancements have lead to exonerations of people on death row and lessened the number of wrongful convictions.

4.     How do other countries use the death penalty?


CT State Standards (includes West Haven’s “Priority” GLES’s in BOLD and “Supporting” Standards)

1.8.1: Describe examples of laws that have been modified to meet the changing needs of society.

1.8.3 Analyze the relationship between law enforcement and personal behavior.

1.1.10 Analyze the impact of technology and scientific discovery on American society.

1.9.3 Analyze historical and contemporary examples if the need to ensure human rights at both the national and international levels.

“Unwrapped” Concepts and Skills, and Bloom Levels (BL)

Concepts(Need to Know)

Skills(Able to Do)


·        Cost of death penalty v. life imprisonment

·        Eight Amendment

·        Furman v. Georgia

·        Gregg v. Georgia

·        Atkins v. Virginia

·        Ford v. Wainwright

·        Roper v. Simmons

·        Michael Ross

·        Pettit Case


·        Felony

·        First degree murder

·        Mitigating factor

·        Aggravating factor

·        State law

  • Parole



  • DNA
  • Exonerate
  • Clemency
  • The Innocence Project



·        The death penalty in other countries


·         Describe major cases and policies that have been used to stop and support capital punishment.


·         Describe changes and controversies over Connecticut’s death penalty policies.






·        Analyze crimes that are punishable by death.

·        Research the differences between how states use and apply capital punishment in different cases.







·        Analyze the impact of DNA testing and forensic science on capital punishment cases.


·        Analyze examples of death penalty sentences in various other countries




























Common Formative Pre- Assessment (Followed by Data Team Analysis):


“Dipsticks” (Informal Progress Monitoring Checks):

Common Formative Post- Assessment (Followed by Data Team Analysis):


Instructional Planning

Suggested Resources/Materials:




US Supreme Court DP case summaries


Article “Anatomy of An Execution” with questions

Pro/Con: Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished

Article “The Death Penalty Debate” with questions

Article “The Cost of Capital Punishment” with questions

Article “DNA evidence frees 100th death row inmate” (Pelatowski)

Current articles on the death penalty in CT


Suggested Research-based Effective Instructional Strategies:

Create Rally Poster on DP


Human Values Line (“Agree”, “Disagree”, “Strongly agree”, “Strongly disagree”)

Questionnaire Poem

Vocabulary/Word Wall


Interdisciplinary Connections

·        Parole

·        Aggravating factor

·        Mitigating factor

·        Abolish

·        Humanitarian

·        DNA

·        exonerate

·        Clemency

·        Felony

·        First Degree murder

·        State laws

Research a person who has been wrongfully convicted and executed

Forensics class, and Biology