Deviant Behavior: Ethnography of a Death Penalty Trial

Allison M. Cotton, Prairie View A & M University

Peyton Tuthill was raped and murdered in Denver, Colorado on February 24, 1999. Donta Page confessed to the crime. The Page v. Colorado trial began in November of 2000 and the District Attorney sought the death penalty. During the trial, the defense argued that Mr. Page was the victim of physical, mental, and sexual abuse that impaired his judgement and damaged his brain (mitigation). The prosecution argued that Mr. Page was a selfish, cold-blooded murderer who deserved to die for the crime (aggravation). Numerous experts were called to testify on Mr. Page's behalf about the relationship between child abuse and later violence. The victim's family testified about the tragic end to her life. Donta Page received life without the possibility of parole and he is currently serving that sentence at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City, Colorado. Participant observation of the trial and content analysis of the trial transcripts raised issues about the images constructed by attorneys of the defendant, jury deliberations, resources allocated to death penalty defendants, and guided discretion.

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Updated 05/20/2006