Yale 250 - too political?

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Yale 250 - too political?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 15, 2016 2:51 pm

My PS is personal, so I thought I should probably be more academic in the 250. Since the vast majority of my work experience is in the death penalty field, I thought I might write about that.

The vast majority of Americans – 62%, according to the latest poll – support the death penalty for murder. However, in recent years, the U.S. has come under attack for being the last developed country to continue executing human beings. And every year, slowly but surely, the number of executions in the U.S. grows smaller. In 2013, it was 39. In 2014, it was 35. And so on.
Those on death row are supposed to be the worst of the worst, people who did terrible things like kill children or commit mass murders. The reality is often quite different. Many offenders are executed for precisely the wrong reasons, the ones that are supposed to play no part in a fair justice system – race and class.
George McFarland’s attorney slept during most of his trial.
Jeffrey Wood was sentenced to death for a murder even the state acknowledges he did not commit.
Timothy Foster, a Black man, was convicted and sentenced to death by an all-White jury. Georgia prosecutors had purposefully eliminated every prospective Black juror from the pool.
McFarland, Foster, and Wood are not outliers. There are hundreds of studies demonstrating that stories like theirs are all too common. And yet, the machinery of death lurches on.
Studies estimate that around four percent of inmates on death row are innocent. How many of them will we murder this year? How long will 62% of us continue to support this injustice?

What do you guys think? I am not sure about my decision to cite individual cases rather than stats, so I have another draft that quotes specific studies, but it's obviously less compelling.

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Re: Yale 250 - too political?

Postby 3pianists » Mon Aug 15, 2016 3:01 pm

I believe the prevailing wisdom is to avoid writing about legal topics in your PS/250. You're really not saying anything groundbreaking here, and you're not saying what you do have to say particularly well. Your 250 will almost certainly be read by people who know this issue much better than you do. My gut says to scrap it and start in with and start in with a new topic. Have you read the enduring Yale 250s thread? http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=68738

That said, I didn't apply to Yale in my cycle, so I have no experience here. Certainly feel free to take my thoughts with a boulder of salt.


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Re: Yale 250 - too political?

Postby SamuelDanforth » Mon Aug 15, 2016 4:21 pm

Agreed. I think it's tremendously difficult to write a substantive 250er about a legal topic that revolves around analysis. It's too short a space, and faculty are unlikely to be moved. I also suspect that 30ish applicants write about this precise topic, if not more.

The caveat to that general warning is that I think you *can* write a good 250er about the process of becoming interested in a legal subject. What moved you, what was the experience, etc. I think that kind of experiential essay works much better, as long as it can demonstrate that you're intellectually engaged and a curious person. A good essay of this variety isn't a piece of legal analysis -- it's a reflection on your own intellectual journey and ambitions. What the legal topic happens to be is beside the point.

But I only have my own experience, and N=1.

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