Against the Death Penalty
Author: Stephen Breyer
Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
A landmark dissenting opinion arguing against the death penalty Does the death penalty violate the Constitution? In Against the Death Penalty, Justice Stephen G. Breyer argues that it does: that it is carried out unfairly and inconsistently, and thus violates the ban on "cruel and unusual punishments" specified by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. "Today’s administration of the death penalty," Breyer writes, "involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose. Perhaps as a result, (4) most places within the United States have abandoned its use." This volume contains Breyer's dissent in the case of Glossip v. Gross, which involved an unsuccessful challenge to Oklahoma's use of a lethal-injection drug because it might cause severe pain. Justice Breyer's legal citations have been edited to make them understandable to a general audience, but the text retains the full force of his powerful argument that the time has come for the Supreme Court to revisit the constitutionality of the death penalty. Breyer was joined in his dissent from the bench by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Their passionate argument has been cited by many legal experts — including fellow Justice Antonin Scalia — as signaling an eventual Court ruling striking down the death penalty. A similar dissent in 1963 by Breyer's mentor, Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, helped set the stage for a later ruling, imposing what turned out to be a four-year moratorium on executions.
Drawing on Old and New Testament resources as well as secular arguments, Gardner C. Hanks shows that the death penalty harms rather than helps any quest for a just, humane society. He demonstrates through research data that the death penalty is an ineffective crime-fighting tool.
This edited volume brings together leading scholars on the death penalty within international, regional and municipal law. It considers the intrinsic elements of both the promotion and demise of the punishment around the world, and provides analysis which contributes to the evolving abolitionist discourse.
Author: Robert Badinter
The English translation of a behind-the-scenes account of the abolition of the death penalty in France
The Death Penalty
Author: Louis P. Pojman
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Two distinguished social and political philosophers take opposing positions in this highly engaging work. Louis P. Pojman justifies the practice of execution by appealing to the principle of retribution while Jeffrey Reiman argues that although the death penalty is a just punishment for murder, we are not morally obliged to execute murderers.
Nation states and communities throughout the world have reached certain decisions about capital punishment: It is the destruction of human life. It is ineffective as a deterrent for crime. It is an instrument the state uses to contain or eliminate its political adversaries. It is a tool of “justice” that disproportionality affects religious, social, and racial minorities. It is a sanction that cannot be fixed if unjustly applied. Yet the United States—along with countries notorious for human rights abuse—remains an advocate for the death penalty. In these thirteen pieces, Mario Marazziti exposes the profound inhumanity and irrationality of the death penalty in this country, and urges us to join virtually every other industrialized democracy in rendering capital punishment an abandoned practice belonging to a crueler time in human history. A polemical book, yes, yet one that brings together a wide range of stories to compel the heart as well the mind. From the Hardcover edition.
People from all walks of life speak out against the barbarism of government control over a person's death, as well as the inconsistent pardoning of some criminals
Don't Kill in Our Names
Author: Rachel King
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Presents the stories of ten members of a national anti-death penalty group, Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, describing what led them to choose forgiveness for the killers of their loved ones instead of revenge.
From 1976, when the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia, until their retirements in the early 1990s, Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall doggedly voted against capital punishment in over 2,500 cases. The Justices typically began their opinions by reiterating they were adhering to their views that "the death penalty is in all cases cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments." While most of the dissents upheld without elaboration their conviction that capital punishment was unconstitutional, some explained in detail why, even assuming the death penalty might be constitutional, its application in the case before the Court was not. In this well-researched and copiously documented work, Michael Mello provides a comprehensive analysis of the legal, historical, and philosophical underpinnings of the Justices' relentless dissents against capital punishment. Mello begins with biographical sketches of Brennan and Marshall, examining how two men from divergent legal backgrounds came to share an unswerving stance against the death penalty. He then considers the historical, theoretical, and jurisprudential legitimacy of Supreme Court dissents in general, and sustained dissents in particular.
Author: Scott Turow
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
America's leading writer about the law takes a close, incisive look at one of society's most vexing legal issues Scott Turow is known to millions as the author of peerless novels about the troubling regions of experience where law and reality intersect. In "real life," as a respected criminal lawyer, he has been involved with the death penalty for more than a decade, including successfully representing two different men convicted in death-penalty prosecutions. In this vivid account of how his views on the death penalty have evolved, Turow describes his own experiences with capital punishment from his days as an impassioned young prosecutor to his recent service on the Illinois commission which investigated the administration of the death penalty and influenced Governor George Ryan's unprecedented commutation of the sentences of 164 death row inmates on his last day in office. Along the way, he provides a brief history of America's ambivalent relationship with the ultimate punishment, analyzes the potent reasons for and against it, including the role of the victims' survivors, and tells the powerful stories behind the statistics, as he moves from the Governor's Mansion to Illinois' state-of-the art 'super-max' prison and the execution chamber. This gripping, clear-sighted, necessary examination of the principles, the personalities, and the politics of a fundamental dilemma of our democracy has all the drama and intellectual substance of Turow's celebrated fiction.
The Wrong Carlos
Author: James S. Liebman, Shawn Crowley, Andrew Markquart, Lauren Rosenberg
Publisher: Columbia University Press
In 1989, Texas executed Carlos DeLuna, a poor Hispanic man with childlike intelligence, for the murder of Wanda Lopez, a convenience store clerk. His execution passed unnoticed for years until a team of Columbia Law School faculty and students almost accidentally chose to investigate his case and found that DeLuna almost certainly was innocent. They discovered that no one had cared enough about either the defendant or the victim to make sure the real perpetrator was found. Everything that could go wrong in a criminal case did. This book documents DeLunaÕs conviction, which was based on a single, nighttime, cross-ethnic eyewitness identification with no corroborating forensic evidence. At his trial, DeLunaÕs defense, that another man named Carlos had committed the crime, was not taken seriously. The lead prosecutor told the jury that the other Carlos, Carlos Hernandez, was a ÒphantomÓ of DeLunaÕs imagination. In upholding the death penalty on appeal, both the state and federal courts concluded the same thing: Carlos Hernandez did not exist. The evidence the Columbia team uncovered reveals that Hernandez not only existed but was well known to the police and prosecutors. He had a long history of violent crimes similar to the one for which DeLuna was executed. Families of both Carloses mistook photos of each for the other, and HernandezÕs violence continued after DeLuna was put to death. This book and its website (thewrongcarlos.net) reproduce law-enforcement, crime lab, lawyer, court, social service, media, and witness records, as well as court transcripts, photographs, radio traffic, and audio and videotaped interviews, documenting one of the most comprehensive investigations into a criminal case in U.S. history. The result is eye-opening yet may not be unusual. Faulty eyewitness testimony, shoddy legal representation, and prosecutorial misfeasance continue to put innocent people at risk of execution. The principal investigators conclude with novel suggestions for improving accuracy among the police, prosecutors, forensic scientists, and judges.
Author: Shane Claiborne
In this reasoned exploration of justice, retribution, and redemption, the champion of the new monastic movement, popular speaker, and author of the bestselling The Irresistible Revolution offers a powerful and persuasive appeal for the abolition of the death penalty. The Bible says an eye for an eye. But is the state’s taking of a life true—or even practical—punishment for convicted prisoners? In this thought-provoking work, Shane Claiborne explores the issue of the death penalty and the contrast between punitive justice and restorative justice, questioning our notions of fairness, revenge, and absolution. Using an historical lens to frame his argument, Claiborne draws on testimonials and examples from Scripture to show how the death penalty is not the ideal of justice that many believe. Not only is a life lost, so too, is the possibility of mercy and grace. In Executing Grace, he reminds us of the divine power of forgiveness, and evokes the fundamental truth of the Gospel—that no one, even a criminal, is beyond redemption.
Author: Michael Mello
Publisher: Univ of Wisconsin Press
The account of a Florida death row lawyer's decision to withdraw from the American capital punishment system.
Michigan is the only state in the country that has a death penalty prohibition in its constitution—Eugene G. Wanger’s compelling arguments against capital punishment is a large reason it is there. The forty pieces in this volume are writings created or used by the author, who penned the prohibition clause, during his fifty years as a death penalty abolitionist. His extraordinary background in forensics, law, and political activity as constitutional convention delegate and co-chairman of the Michigan Committee Against Capital Punishment has produced a remarkable collection. It is not only a fifty-year history of the anti–death penalty argument in America, it also is a detailed and challenging example of how the argument against capital punishment may be successfully made.