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In assessing the constitutionality of a capital sentencing regime, the raw number of aggravating factors is irrelevant. What matters is their scope. To pass constitutional muster, aggravating factors (or the equivalent) must narrow the scope of death eligibility to the worst-of-the-worst. Professor Chad Flanders wants courts to ignore empirical assessments of the scope of aggravating circumstances and uses an imagined State of Alpha as his jumping off point. This response to Prof. Flanders makes the case for looking at the actual operation of a law, not just its reach in the abstract. This response focuses on Arizona’s capital sentencing regime to illustrate the importance of understanding the real world operation of the law and discusses the well-established basis in law and policy for relying on empirical studies in support of narrowing claims.

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UC Davis Law Review Online