The Top Ten Death Penalty Myths: The Politics of Crime Control

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007 - Political Science - 235 pages

The death penalty remains one of the most controversial issues in the United States. Its proponents claim many things in their defense of its continued application. For example, they claim that it deters crime, that death by lethal injection is painless and humane, that it is racially neutral, and that it provides closure to families of the victims. In this comprehensive review of the major death penalty issues, the authors systematically dismantle each one of these myths about capital punishment in a hard-hitting critique of how our social, political, and community leaders have used fear and myth (symbolic politics) to misrepresent the death penalty as a public policy issue. They successfully demonstrate how our political and community leaders have used myth and emotional appeals to misrepresent the facts about capital executions.

Successive chapters address the following topics: the notion of community bonding, the expectation of effective crime fighting, the desire for equal justice, deterrence, the hope for fidelity to the Constitution, the claim of error-free justice, closure, retribution, cost-effectiveness, and the messianic desires of some politicians. In each of these areas the authors quote from death penalty advocates making these claims and then proceed to analyze and ultimately dismember the claimed advantages of the death penalty.


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The top ten death penalty myths: the politics of crime control

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Does the United States need a death penalty today, especially since we are among the few nations that still have one? Its proponents claim that it deters crime, that death by lethal injection is ... Read full review


Chapter 1 Death Penalty History and the Myth of Community Bonding
Chapter 2 The Myth of the Rule of Law in Capital Cases
Chapter 3 The Myth of Equal Justice
Chapter 4 The Myth of Deterrence
Chapter 5 The Myth of Fidelity to the Constitution
Chapter 6 The Myth of Humane Execution
Chapter 7 The Myth of Closure
Chapter 8 The Myth of Retribution
Chapter 9 The Myth of Effective Crime Control
Chapter 10 The Myth of the Dedicated Public Servant
Selected Bibliography

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About the author (2007)

Rudolph J. Gerber is a lawyer in private practice who teaches at Arizona State University. He is also a retired judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals. His most recent book is Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics.

John M. Johnson is Professor of Justice Studies at the School of Justice and Social Inquiry, Arizona State University, where he has taught since 1972. He has published 12 books and has headed the ASU chapter of Amnesty International for 12 years.

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