Leigh B. Bienen Papers, 1872, 1935, 1951-2011, Undated, bulk 1971-2011
- Leigh B. Bienen
- The Leigh Bienen Papers include the records of the New Jersey Proportionality Review Project, the Illinois Capital Punishment Reform Study Commission, and the academic research papers of legal scholar Leigh Bienen. The New Jersey records contain material from New Jersey Public Defender Homicide Study directed by Bienen in the mid-1980s. The collection also includes the records from Bienen’s involvement with the New Jersey Proportionality Review Project headed by Special Master David C. Baldus. Also present is material from Leigh Bienen's tenure on the Illinois Capital Punishment Reform Study Commission which resulted in the abolition of the death penalty in that state in 2011. Finally the collection contains Leigh Bienen's scholarly research material during her career teaching at both Princeton University and Northwestern University. Her research focused on proportionality review, the death penalty's monetary costs, and the role of prosecutor discretion.
- 23.2 cubic ft.
- English and English
- Preferred citation:
- Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Leigh B. Bienen Papers, 1872, 1935, 1951-2011, Undated. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York.
Access and Use
- Conditions Governing Access:
Access to this record group is unrestricted.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
- Scope and Content:
The collection documents Leigh B. Bienen’s scholarly research promoting the abolition of capital punishment in New Jersey and Illinois due to its discriminatory application. Published academic papers, legislative acts, and published judicial decisions used in her research make up much of the collection. Also present are records documenting the New Jersey Public Defender Homicide Study including questionnaires, data reports, and notes. Records from Bienen’s role in the New Jersey Proportionality Review Project are also included. This consists of correspondence, case reports, data gathering information, data tables, drafts, narrative summaries, and multiple case briefs for the major cases involved in the proportionality review including State v. Marshall, State V. Bey, and State v. Martini. Material from the Illinois Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee is also present, consisting of correspondence, meeting minutes, and formal reports. Finally, the collection also includes Leigh Bienen’s teaching materials, notes, and syllabi, as well drafts and final copies of her publications.
- Biographical / Historical:
Leigh Bienen graduated from Cornell University in 1960 and undertook graduate work in Economics at M.I.T., and Creative Writing at the University of Iowa before completing her J.D. from Rutgers in 1975. After her admission to the Bar of the Supreme Court of New Jersey in 1975, Bienen wrote on rape law reform in the late 1970s and early 1980s while working briefly as a Research Attorney at the Center of Rape Concern at Philadelphia General Hospital. During this time she also lectured in the Politics Department at Princeton, the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Law, and briefly at the University of California-Berkley School of Law.
Bienen first joined the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate in 1977 as Assistant Deputy Public Defender and became Director of a Special Projects Section devoted to studying state’s use of capital punishment. Here she directed the New Jersey Public Defender Homicide Study, an empirical study that examined the state’s restoration of the Death Penalty in 1982. The culminating report of the project, The Reimposition of Capital Punishment in New Jersey was cited in State v. Ramseur, the first capital punishment challenge to the New Jersey Supreme Court since 1982. Findings from the study were published in the Rutgers Law Review and the Albany Law Review with Bienen as lead author. Co-authors included Neil Alan Weiner and Deborah W. Denno, other notable death penalty scholars, and Douglas A. Mills, a statistical programming consultant.
The Public Defender Homicide Study influenced the state supreme court which ordered an empirical proportionality review of New Jersey capital cases. Proportionality review is the analysis of an individual death sentence when compared to similar sentences imposed upon similar defendants for similar crimes. Professor David C. Baldus was appointed Special Master to the New Jersey Supreme Court where he developed the methodology for collecting and analyzing data for the project. The state Public Defender contributed data from the Homicide Study and Baldus developed a public collection of data on all relevant homicide cases and headed the New Jersey Proportionality Review Project which included Leigh Bienen. The Project met regularly for three years while they debated the identification of death-eligible cases and all relevant legal and factual issues.
The New Jersey Proportionality Review Project was cited and debated in State v. Marshall II, the first case where the state supreme court conducted proportionality review. The results of the Project suggested race-of-defendant bias, but was criticized due to the overall instability of the data models. Furthermore, the State Attorney General’s Office contended that the "universe" of cases included by the Project was too broad and argued that only similar death sentences--not all death-eligible cases--should be included. Robert O. Marshall became the first of 36 New Jersey capital defendants to have his death sentence upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court on appeal since 1982. In 1992 the New Jersey State Legislature passed a law that enforced the State Attorney General’s Office’s option that comparison cases in proportionality review would be limited only to cases where a death sentence was imposed. Robert O. Marshall’s death sentence was overturned in 2006 and New Jersey abolished capital punishment in 2007, becoming the first state to do so by legislative act.
Leigh Bienen joined the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs as a Lecturer and Administrative Director of the Undergraduate Program in 1991, although she continued to work as a consultant to the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate for some time. While at Princeton her researched examined proportionality review in state supreme courts and the role of prosecutor discretion in the imposition of the death penalty.
In 1995, Bienen joined the Northwestern University School of Law as a Senior Lecturer. She began researching and writing on the monetary costs of capital punishment, developed the Northwestern University Law School Capital Crimes Database and the Chicago Historical Homicide Project. In 2006 she was appointed a member of the Illinois Capital Punishment Reform Study Committee, a group that was established by Governor George Ryan after his moratorium on executions in 2000 to examine if the death penalty could be carried out fairly. After the committee’s final report in 2011, the state legislature repealed the death penalty that year.
- Acquisition information:
All items in the Leigh Bienen Papers were donated by Leigh Bienen in four gifts from 2008 to 2013.
The collection is organized into the following series:
All series are arranged chronologically, with the exception of series 4 which is ordered alphabetically by state.
- Processing information:
Processed in 2014 by Gregory Wiedeman.
- Death Penalty
Criminal Justice and Prisons
Discrimination in capital punishment--New Jersey--Statistical methods
Discrimination in capital punishment--United States
Capital punishment--New Jersey
Capital punishment--Law and legislation
Legal research and writing
Legal research--Data processing
Legal research--New Jersey
Minutes (administrative records)
- Baldus, David C.
Bienen, Leigh B.
Denno, Deborah W.
Weiner, Neal Alan