Is capital punishment just? Does it deter people from murder? What is the risk that we will execute innocent people? These are the usual questions at the heart of the increasingly heated debate about capital punishment in America. In this bold and impassioned book, Austin Sarat seeks to change the terms of that debate. Capital punishment must be stopped, Sarat argues, because it undermines our democratic society. Sarat unflinchingly exposes us to the realities of state killing. He examines its foundations in ideas about revenge and retribution. He takes us inside the courtroom of a capital trial, interviews jurors and lawyers who make decisions about life and death, and assesses the arguments swirling around Timothy McVeigh and his trial for the bombing in Oklahoma City. Aided by a series of unsettling color photographs, he traces Americans' evolving quest for new methods of execution, and explores the place of capital punishment in popular culture by examining such films as Dead Man Walking, The Last Dance, and The Green Mile. Sarat argues that state executions, once used by monarchs as symbolic displays of power, gained acceptance among Americans as a sign of the people's sovereignty. Yet today when the state kills, it does so in a bureaucratic procedure hidden from view and for which no one in particular takes responsibility. He uncovers the forces that sustain America's killing culture, including overheated political rhetoric, racial prejudice, and the desire for a world without moral ambiguity. Capital punishment, Sarat shows, ultimately leaves Americans more divided, hostile, indifferent to life's complexities, and much further from solving the nation's ills. In short, it leaves us with an impoverished democracy. The book's powerful and sobering conclusions point to a new abolitionist politics, in which capital punishment should be banned not only on ethical grounds but also for what it does to Americans and what we cherish.
Is the Death Penalty Dying? provides a careful analysis of the historical and political conditions that shaped death penalty practice on both sides of the Atlantic from the end of World War II to the twenty-first century. This book examines and assesses what the United States can learn from the European experience with capital punishment, especially the trajectory of abolition in different European nations. As a comparative sociology and history of the present, the book seeks to illuminate the way death penalty systems and their dissolution work, by means of eleven chapters written by an interdisciplinary group of authors from the United States and Europe. This work will help readers see how close the United States is to ending capital punishment and some of the cultural and institutional barriers that stand in the way of abolition.
A Philosophical Investigation of Evil and its Consequences
Author: Matthew H. Kramer
Publisher: OUP Oxford
Debate has long been waged over the morality of capital punishment, with standard arguments in its favour being marshalled against familiar arguments that oppose the practice. In The Ethics of Capital Punishment, Matthew Kramer takes a fresh look at the philosophical arguments on which the legitimacy of the death penalty stands or falls, and he develops a novel justification of that penalty for a limited range of cases. The book pursues both a project of critical debunking of the familiar rationales for capital punishment and a project of partial vindication. The critical part presents some accessible and engaging critiques of major arguments that have been offered in support of the death penalty. These chapters, suitable for use in teaching courses on capital punishment, valuably take issue with positions at the heart of contemporary debates over the morality of such punishment. The book then presents an original justification for executing truly terrible criminals, a justification that is free-standing rather than an aspect or offshoot of a general theory of punishment. Its purgative rationale, which has not heretofore been propounded in any current philosophical and practical debates over the death penalty, derives from a philosophical reconception of the nature of evil and the nature of defilement. As the book contributes to philosophical discussions of those phenomena, it also contributes importantly to general normative ethics with sustained reflections on the differences between consequentialist approaches to punishment and deontological approaches. Above all, the volume contributes to the philosophy of criminal law with a fresh rationale for the use of the death penalty and with probing assessments of all the major theories of punishment that have been broached by jurists and philosophers for centuries. Although the book is a work of philosophy by a professional philosopher, it is readily accessible to readers who have not studied philosophy. It will stir both philosophers and anyone engaged with the death penalty to reconsider whether the institution of capital punishment can be an appropriate response to extreme evil.
The 4th edition of this authoritative study of the death penalty, now written jointly with Carolyn Hoyle, brings up-to-date developments in the movement to abolish the death penalty worldwide. It draws on Roger Hood's experience as consultant to the United Nations for the UN Secretary General's five-yearly surveys of capital punishment and on the latest information from non-governmental organizations and the academic literature. Not only have many more countries abolished capital punishment but, even amongst those that retain it, the majority have been carrying out fewer executions. Legal challenges to the mandatory capital punishment have been successful, as has the pressure to abolish the death penalty for those who commit a capital crime when under the age of 18. This edition has more to say about the prospects that China will restrict and control the number of executions 'on the road to abolition'. Yet, despite such advances, this book reveals many human rights abuses where the death penalty still exists. In some countries a wide range of crimes are still subject to capital punishment, and the authorities too often fail to meet the safeguards embodied in international human rights treaties to safeguard those facing the death penalty. There is evidence of police abuse, unfair trials, lack of access to competent defence counsel, excessive periods of time spent on in horrible conditions on 'death row', and public, painful forms of execution. The authors engage with the latest debates on the realities of capital punishment, especially its justification as a uniquely effective deterrent; whether it can ever be administered equitably, without discrimination or error; and what influence relatives of victims should have in sentencing and on the public debate. For the first time, it also discussing the problem of devising an alternative to capital punishment, especially life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Killing as punishment in the USA, whether ordained by lynch mob or the courts, reflects a paradox of the American nation: liberal, pluralistic, yet prone to lethal violence. This book examines the encounter between the legal history of the death penalty in America and its cinematic representations, through a comprehensive narrative and historical view of films dealing with this genre, from the silent era to the present. It addresses central issues of, for example, racial prejudice and attitudes towards the execution of women, and discusses how cinema has chosen to deal with them. It also explores how such films as Michael Curtiz's 20,000 Years in Sing Sing, Errol Morris' documentary The Thin Blue Line, John Singleton's Rosewood and Frank Darabont's death-row movie The Green Mile, have helped to shape real historical developments and public perceptions by bringing into sharper relief the legal, social, and cultural tensions associated with capital punishment.
This book brings together scholarship on three different forms of state violence, examining each for what it can tell us about the conditions under which states use violence and the significance of violence to our understanding of states. This book calls into question the legitimacy of state uses of violence and mounts a sustained effort at interpretation, sense making, and critique. It suggests that condemning the state's decisions to use lethal force is not a simple matter of abolishing the death penalty or – to take another exemplary example of the killing state – demanding that the state engage only in just (publicly declared and justified) wars, pointing out that even such overt instances of lethal force are more elusive as targets of critique than one might think. Indeed, altering such decisions may do little to change the essential relationship of the state to violence.
This book explores how norms-based international organizations, namely the Council of Europe and the OSCE, are still able to win in world politics. Fawn uses the concept of internal conditionality to explain how these organizations have been able to respond to members with a lack of material incentives or instruments of coercion.
Analyzes social aspects of prison, covering various theories about the role and function of punishment in society in the United States, including how the culture of imprisonment carries over into everyday life through television shows, movies, prison tourism, and other avenues, and examines the negative impact of penal spectatorship.
The death penalty arouses our passions as does few other issues. Some view taking another person's life as just and reasonable punishment while others see it as an inhumane and barbaric act. But the intensity of feeling that capital punishment provokes often obscures its long and varied history in this country. Now, for the first time, we have a comprehensive history of the death penalty in the United States. Law professor Stuart Banner tells the story of how, over four centuries, dramatic changes have taken place in the ways capital punishment has been administered and experienced. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the penalty was standard for a laundry list of crimes--from adultery to murder, from arson to stealing horses. Hangings were public events, staged before audiences numbering in the thousands, attended by women and men, young and old, black and white alike. Early on, the gruesome spectacle had explicitly religious purposes--an event replete with sermons, confessions, and last minute penitence--to promote the salvation of both the condemned and the crowd. Through the nineteenth century, the execution became desacralized, increasingly secular and private, in response to changing mores. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, ironically, as it has become a quiet, sanitary, technological procedure, the death penalty is as divisive as ever. By recreating what it was like to be the condemned, the executioner, and the spectator, Banner moves beyond the debates, to give us an unprecedented understanding of capital punishment's many meanings. As nearly four thousand inmates are now on death row, and almost one hundred are currently being executed each year, the furious debate is unlikely to diminish. The Death Penalty is invaluable in understanding the American way of the ultimate punishment. Table of Contents: Abbreviations Introduction 1. Terror, Blood, and Repentance 2. Hanging Day 3. Degrees of Death 4. The Origins of Opposition 5. Northern Reform, Southern Retention 6. Into the Jail Yard 7. Technological Cures 8. Decline 9. To the Supreme Court 10. Resurrection Epilogue Appendix: Counting Executions Notes Acknowledgments Index Reviews of this book: [Banner] deftly balances history and politics, crafting a book that will be valuable to anyone interested in knowing more about capital punishment, no matter what his or her views are on the ethical issues surrounding the topic. --David Pitt, Booklist Reviews of this book: In this well-researched and clear account...Banner charts how and why this country went from having one of the world's mildest punitive systems to one of its harshest. --Publishers Weekly Reviews of this book: Stuart Banner's book is fine and balanced and important. His lucid history of this grim subject is scrupulously accurate...It is refreshingly free of the tendentiousness and the sensationalism that this subject invites. --Richard A. Posner, New Republic Reviews of this book: [The] contrast between the past and the present can now be seen with great clarity thanks to...Stuart Banner and his comprehensive book, The Death Penalty...American historians have been slow to undertake anything like a full-scale study of the subject...Banner's book does much to fill [the gaps]. His book is an important and comprehensive...treatment of the topic. --Hugo Adam Bedau, Boston Review Reviews of this book: Despite the gruesome nature of the book's topic, it is difficult to stop reading. Banner's research is fascinating, his writing style compelling. Given the emotional nature of the subject (few people known to me are wishy-washy about whether the death penalty is moral or immoral), Banner walks the line of neutrality skillfully, without seeming evasive. --Steve Weinberg, Legal Times Reviews of this book: Stuart Banner's The Death Penalty is a tour de force, remarkable for its neutrality as it traces the ways in which the death penalty has been applied, and for what kinds of crimes, from the Colonial era to the present. Banner...writes like a historian who believes perspective is best gained by dispassionately setting out what happened and letting everyone come to his or her own conclusions. I think, in this book, that works wonderfully. On a subject in which emotions run so high, it seems awfully useful to have a dispassionate voice. After all, if Banner allowed his own feelings on the death penalty--pro, con or somewhere in the middle--to be known, the book easily could be dismissed as a diatribe. He doesn't, and it can't. --Judith Neuman Beck, San Jose Mercury News Reviews of this book: Law professor Banner...offers a persuasive examination of the evolution of capital punishment from Colonial times onward. He makes clear that the death penalty has possessed generally consistent support from the US populace, although changes in the sensibilities of juries, executioners, legal theoreticians, and judges have occurred...Highly recommended. --R. C. Cottrell, Choice Reviews of this book: Stuart Banner aptly illustrates in The Death Penalty, like the nation, the death penalty has changed with the times...Banner's account spotlights a number of interesting trends in American history...Mostly evenhanded in the tour he provides through the history of the death penalty and its role in and reflection of American society, he has managed to provide an accessible look at what is a profoundly controversial and complicated subject. --Steven Martinovich, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel Reviews of this book: "For centuries," Stuart Banner tells us, "Americans had been proud to possess a criminal-justice system that made less use of the death penalty than just about any other place on the globe, including the countries of western Europe." But no longer. Now we possess "one of the harshest criminal codes in the world." The Death Penalty helps explain that turnaround, but only in the course of a complicated story in which different factors emerge at different times to play often unforeseeable roles...[This is a] superbly told history. --Paul Rosenberg, Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Reviews of this book: Stuart Banner's lucid, richly researched book brings us, for the first time, a comprehensive history of American capital punishment from colonial times to the present. He describes the practices that characterized the institution at different periods, elucidates their ritual purposes and social meanings, and identifies the forces that led to their transformation. The book's well-ordered narrative is interspersed with individual case histories, that give flesh and blood to the account. --David Garland, Times Literary Supplement Reviews of this book: [An] informative, even-handed, chillingly fascinating account of why and how the U.S. government and many state governments decided to sponsor executions of criminals--even though innocent defendants might die, too. --Jane Henderson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Reviews of this book: Stuart Banner's The Death Penalty is a splendidly objective achievement. Delightfully written, free of academic pretense, liberally sprinkled with apt references from contemporary sources, the book exhaustively explores the multifaceted evolution of America's penal practices. --Elsbeth Bothe, Baltimore Sun The Death Penalty is certain to be the definitive account of the American experience with capital punishment, from its beginnings in the seventeenth century, to the execution of Timothy McVeigh in 2001. This is a first rate piece of scholarship: well written, deeply researched, fascinating to read, and full of insights and good common sense. It is, in my view, one of the finest books to deal with this troubled and troubling subject. Historical and legal scholarship owe a debt of gratitude to Stuart Banner. --Lawrence Friedman, Stanford Law School A masterful book. This is a long overdue account which fills a huge gap in our understanding of America's long and complex relationship to state killing. With meticulous scholarship and lucid prose, Banner has written a compelling account of the place of capital punishment in our society. It sets the standard for all future scholarship on the history of the death penalty in America. --Austin Sarat, author of When the State Kills: Capital Punishment and the American Condition The Death Penalty, a study we have badly needed, is the first history of the nation's engagement--as well as its disengagement--with capital punishment from the country's earliest days to the present. With a sure grasp of the constitutional issues, Stuart Banner greatly advances a conversation at last underway about the rightness of putting people to death for having inflicted a death. Banner's greatest and most useful feat is remaining dispassionate on a subject that he cares deeply about--as do a growing number of his fellow Americans. --William S. McFeely, author of Proximity to Death The Death Penalty beautifully explains the changing paths traveled by supporters and opponents of capital punishment over the years. It explores a subject of enormous symbolic importance to Americans today, linking our views about the death penalty to our larger concerns about crime. --David Oshinsky, author of "Worse Than Slavery": Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice Banner's book is a superbly detailed and textured social history of a subject too often treated in legal abstractions. It demonstrates how capital punishment has gnawed at the conscience and imagination of Americans, and how it has challenged their efforts to define themselves culturally, politically, and racially. --Robert Weisberg, Stanford Law School
Traces the history of the gas chamber, beginning with its first construction in Nevada in 1924 as a humane method of execution, and describes the political, corporate, and military uses for the technology through the twentieth century.