December 23, 2014

First "Hidden Collections" from the National Death Penalty Archives Made Available

The first two collections processed as part of the Building New Access Tools for the National Death Penalty Archive project are now open and available to researchers. Guides to the Leigh B. Bienen Papers and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Records can now be found on the M.E. Grenander Special Collections and Archives webpage. Visitors may now request to see any part of these collections in the Marcia Brown Reading Room on the third floor of the Science Library.

The ongoing project to process and make available 10 collections from the National Death Penalty Archives is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources as part of its Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program.

The Leigh B. Bienen Papers contain the records of legal scholar Leigh B. Bienen and her efforts to show how the application of capital punishment in New Jersey and Illinois was inconsistent and discriminatory. Bienen was a member of the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate in the 1980s where she directed the Public Defender Homicide Study cited in the New Jersey Supreme Court Decision State v. Marshall. In this case, Robert O. Marshall became the state's first death row inmate to have his death sentence confirmed by New Jersey's highest court since capital punishment was reinstated there in 1982. The study led the court to call for the New Jersey Proportionality Review Project where Bienen, along with other legal scholars, argued that the state's administration of the death penalty had significant bias based on the race of the defendant. The death penalty in New Jersey was abolished in 2007.
Bienen later lectured at Princeton University and Northwestern University and published extensively on the monetary costs of capital punishment and the outsized role of local prosecutors in sentencing defendants to death. In 2006, she was named to the Illinois Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee which influenced the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois in 2011.

For over 35 years the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has been working to educate the public about the arbitrary, discriminatory, and inconsistent use of capital punishment in the United States. The group was founded after the Supreme Court again permitted use of the death penalty in the Gregg v. Georgia decision of 1976. Since then, the NCADP has emerged as the largest national organization exclusively devoted to abolishing the death penalty. The group lobbies against capital punishment through a variety of methods that include organizing protests and increasing public awareness. The NCADP uses a number of non-violent methods to draw attention to, and advance, their campaign at local, state and national levels.

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Records contains the group's internal case files, administrative material, and publications. Here researchers can examine efforts like the international Stop Killing Kids Campaign as well as photographs, audio, and video of the NCADP's annual conference and on-the-ground advocacy campaigns.
The Building New Access Tools for the National Death Penalty Archive project is well under way. In addition to these two collections, the Victor L. Streib Papers and the records of the death penalty abolition group Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation are also nearing completion and will be made available during the Spring 2015 semester. Work has also started on the arrangement and description of the Bill Pelke Papers and the David C. Baldus Papers which document abolition advocacy campaigns and the statistical analysis of capital charging, sentencing, and jury-decision making in six states and in the US military. Overall the project will result in the processing and opening of over 700 cubic feet of unique manuscript materials.

September 27, 2012

A National Death Penalty Archive Event

A National Death Penalty Archive Event
Friday, October 12, 2012
Standish Room, Science Library, University at Albany
Lecture and Reception at 4:00 pm

strieb copy.jpg

The University at Albany's School of Criminal Justice and the University Libraries are proud to host former Dean and Professor Emeritus Victor Streib, of the Ohio Northern University College of Law, who will offer remarks in connection with the announcement of the addition of his papers to the National Death Penalty Archive (NDPA). Dean Streib is recognized as the country's foremost authority on the capital punishment of juveniles and women. His work has been cited extensively by the United States Supreme Court in its cases addressing the constitutionality of the death penalty for juvenile offenders. His remarks will address "Death to the Women and Children," and will analyze national and international trends regarding the capital punishment of these different populations. Discussion, an opportunity for questions, and a reception will follow. Portions of the materials that Dean Streib has donated to the NDPA will be on display. The program is free and open to the public. For a copy of the latest edition of Dean Streib's research report, Death Penalty for Female Offenders, visit:

April 11, 2012

Race and the Death Penalty: A Tribute to the Life and Work of David C. Baldus


The School of Criminal Justice and the University Libraries are pleased to invite the public and the University community to an event to be held on Friday, April 20 at 3:30 in the Standish Room, on the third floor of the Science Library, to announce the addition of the personal papers of the late David C. Baldus, Joseph B. Tye Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, to the National Death Penalty Archive. David Baldus's research and scholarship on the influence of race in the administration of the death penalty are unparalleled. His study of racial disparities in the application of Georgia's death penalty served as the foundation of the landmark Supreme Court case, McCleskey v. Kemp (1987). In that decision, by vote of 5-4, the justices upheld Georgia's death penalty law against constitutional challenge despite dramatic race-of-victim differences in capital charging and sentencing decisions that were revealed by "the Baldus study." The McCleskey decision was issued a quarter century ago, on April 22, 1987. Speakers at the April 20 event will reflect on the legacy of McCleskey v. Kemp and issues involving race and capital punishment as they recognize David Baldus's enduring commitment to equal justice under law and comment on the significance of including his papers within the National Death Penalty Archive. Speakers will include:

Professor Catherine Grosso, Michigan State College of Law
Dr. Alice Green, Center for Law and Justice
Mr. David Kaczynski, New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Mr. Brian Keough, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University at Albany
Professor James Acker, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany

Discussion and a question-and-answer session will follow. Refreshments will be available. The event is free and open to the public. For additional information, contact: Brian Keough at


CSPAN Coverage of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the Death Penalty, with footage to David Baldus testomony

January 3, 2007

New Collections

Below are a few collections recently acquired by the Grenander Department. Complete lists of the Department's collections are available here.

Bridge Line Historical Society (MSS-129) - The Bridge Line Historical Society (BLHS) was founded in 1990 to document the history of the Delaware & Hudson Railway. The collection includes the BLHS's newsletter, The Bulletin, as well as maps, drawings, publications, and related material. The Grenander Department has only just begun to receive records from the BLHS and expects to steadily receive additional material from the organization in the months and years to come.

Business and Professional Women's Club of Schenectady (APAP-218) - The records of the Business and Professional Women's Club of Schenectady joins the records of the Albany and New York State organizations already held by the Grenander Department. The collection includes meeting minutes, news clippings, publications, programs, scrapbooks detailing the club's activities and accomplishments, and photographs from its organization in 1927 through 2006.

David Coplon (APAP-288) - The collection includes material from the Schenectady chapter of Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE); local anti-Vietnam war organizations; Church and Laity United, Schenectady; and groups advocating for Middle East peace. Much of the material dates from the 1970s.

Robert Gross (APAP-291) - The records were created during Gross' work with the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), Journey of Hope, Lighting the Torch of Conscience, and other activities in opposition to the death penalty. The NCADP leads and coordinates the movement to end state killing in the United States. Its 120 member organizations include civil and human rights groups, legal advocacy and public interest groups, and virtually every major church or religious denomination in the country. Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing is an organization that is led by murder victims' family members. It conducts public education speaking tours and addresses alternatives to the death penalty. The collection includes: NCADP state files, programs, and organizations; Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing administrative files, videotapes, photographs, and press packets related to speaking tours; and material from the Lighting the Torch of Conscience march in 1990.

Geof Huth (MSS-137) - The collection includes artworks produced by Geof Huth (including poetry, fiction, essays, aphorisms, visual poems, dramatic works, and comics), biographical records, extensive correspondence, records of his various micropresses, weblogs, audiovisual recordings of sound poems and presentations given at professional conferences, and a large collection of small and micropress publications focused on visual and experimental poetry. Huth's reflections on donating his papers, including the finding aid he wrote for his collection, are here. After a bit of editing, the Grenander Department will make the finding aid available from here.

Women's Building, Inc. (APAP-292) - The Women's Building, Inc. is the women's community center of the Capital Region located at 79 Central Avenue in Albany, New York and operated by the Holding Our Own foundation. The Women's Building's mission is to create an environment where differences are respected, leadership is shared, all women's strengths are recognized, all women's growth is supported, and a diversity of age, race, education, income, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, religion, and social background is seen as enriching. The organization's goals are to: provide a resource center and clearinghouse for information of interest to women; a multi-purpose space for cultural, informational, and recreational events of interest to women and children including meeting rooms, office rental for women's organizations, services, commercial, and professional enterprises, and a performance area; and to enhance a sense of community among women throughout the Capital Region. The collection includes records such as meeting minutes, grant applications, material related to the Women's Building's capital campaign, publications, program material, and other administrative material.

October 3, 2006

New Finding Aids for National Death Penalty Archive Collections

In anticipation of the symposium The Next Generation of Death Penalty Research: Priorities, Strategies, and an Agenda presented by the Capital Punishment Research Initiative and the School of Criminal Justice on October 6-7, 2006, the new finding aids highlighted in this posting are from the National Death Penalty Archive.

Steven Hawkins
Steven Hawkins was the executive director of the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty (now known as the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty) based in Washington, D.C. Hawkins has worked as an advocate for civil and human rights representing persons under a death sentence. The papers contain meeting subject files that include extensive minutes of board meetings, speeches, fundraising and reception notes, and pamphlets and other papers relating to his attendance at board and committee meetings with related organizations, such as the Death Penalty Information Center and Amnesty International. The papers also contain copies of police reports, witness and investigator statements, and defendant testimony regarding the cases of certain high-profile death row inmates.

Death Penalty in New York Testimony Collection
The Death Penalty in New York Testimony Collection includes testimony given to the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Codes, Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary, and Assembly Standing Committee on Correction in 2004-2005. The collection includes testimony from 137 witnesses, including officials from grass roots organizations, lawyers, law professors, concerned citizens, religious leaders, former inmates, and families of victims. The collection also includes a copy of the 1965 Committee for the Revision of the Penal and Criminal Legal Code Special Report on Capital Punishment and a booklet from the Capital Punishment Committee of Michigan about the New York hearings, entitled A Guide to the New York Death Penalty Hearings, 2004-2005. This booklet, which lists witness names, was written by Eugene G. Wanger, who also testified.

The National Death Penalty Archive is a partnership between the University at Albany Libraries and the Capital Punishment Research Initiative (CPRI) at the University's School of Criminal Justice. In 1999, researchers at the School of Criminal Justice formally established the CPRI. Its overarching goals were research and education -- initiate capital punishment research activities, facilitate collaboration among researchers, and make findings and information available to legal and criminal justice policymakers, practitioners, and the public. One of the original goals of the CPRI was to establish and maintain a collection of archival materials documenting the important history of capital punishment, and to provide resources for historical scholarship. This growing collection of archival materials is housed in the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives.

September 25, 2006

Recent Acquisitions for the National Death Penalty Archive

The National Death Penalty Archive in the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives continues to expand. Last month, over 80 cubic feet of records from Abe Bonowitz, Bill Pelke, Bill Babbitt, and Michael Mello were transferred to the Department of Special Collections and Archives. Bonowitz of Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Pelke of Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing, and Charlie Lanier of the Capital Punishment Research Initiative even braved one of the hottest days of the summer in August to bring more records to UAlbany! You can read Abe's account of the trip and his encouragement to others to consider transferring their records to the National Death Penalty Archive here.

August 9, 2006

Capital Punishment Clemency Petitions Digitized

The Capital Punishment Clemency Petitions Collection has been digitized and links to PDF files of the petitions are available from the finding aid for the collection at

Unlike judicial proceedings, claims raised in clemency petitions are free of procedural defaults that can mask error, unfairness, or irrationality in a given death sentence. Petitions thus can reveal what the sentencing authority may not have known because of attorney error, prosecutorial misconduct, newly discovered evidence, or other reasons. As part of his work with The Constitution Project, William J. Bowers established the Capital Punishment Clemency Petitions Collection Collection at the National Death Penalty Archive in the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives. This collection comprises approximately 150 clemency petitions in death penalty cases, from almost two dozens jurisdictions. It is the initial installment in a collection that attempts to gather all death penalty clemency petitions filed in the United States during the modern era of capital punishment.

The University Libraries’ M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives is collaborating with the Capital Punishment Research Initiative of the School of Criminal Justice to maintain and grow the National Death Penalty Archive (NDPA). Additional information about the NDPA and a complete list of collections is available at