Dead Wrong: Violence, Vengeance, and the Victims of Capital Punishment

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006 - Law - 287 pages
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Attitudes toward the death penalty have changed dramatically throughout the course of history, evolving from times when public executions were occasions of solemn and pious ritual to excuses for raucous entertainment, and finally to the modern era of private, bureaucratized, mechanized, and sanitized executions that are out of sight and out of mind. Conforming thus to modern sensibilities, state-sanctioned killing is somehow more acceptable to us than public hangings would have been, because we can imagine that the inmate's death is relatively painless, and not in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. This may or may not be true; Stack presents compelling arguments to the contrary. What is certain is that Dead Wrong demonstrates beyond a doubt that death row is itself a form of psychological torture and of slow, painful dehumanization.

Polls indicate that 75 percent of Americans favor the death penalty--but they also show that minds change when individuals are confronted with the facts. This book was written to offer those facts-and to change those minds.

The United States is alone among Western democracies in its support for capital punishment, which was only briefly abolished throughout this country between 1972 and 1976. Today, 38 states have some form of capital punishment. Yet studies show that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime, that racial disparities in the implementation of capital punishment are rampant, and that all kinds of procedural errors, incompetent defense lawyers, and mistaken eyewitness identifications lead to an alarming number of wrongful convictions.

Attitudes toward the death penalty have changed dramatically throughout the course of history, evolving from times when public executions were occasions of solemn and pious ritual to those when it was an excuse for raucous entertainment, and finally to the modern era of private, bureaucratized, mechanized, and sanitized executions conducted out of sight and out of mind. Conforming thus to modern sensibilities, state-sanctioned killing is somehow more acceptable to us than public hangings, because we can imagine that the inmate's death is relatively painless, and not in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. This may or may not be true; Stack presents compelling arguments to the contrary. What is certain is that Dead Wrong demonstrates beyond a doubt that death row is itself a form of psychological torture and of slow, painful dehumanization.

 

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Contents

1 The Death Penalty in Context
1
2 Dead to Rights
39
Seeing Isnt Always Believing
67
4 Systemic Corruption
101
5 Reasonable Doubt at a Reasonable Price
139
6 Welcome Home
169
7 Reasons and Remedies for Wrongful Convictions
211
Afterword by Susannah Sheffer
235
Appendix A Timeline
245
Appendix B AntiDeath Penalty Organizations
249
Notes
257
Selected Bibliography
279
Index
283
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

Richard A. Stack, a lawyer and Associate Professor of Communication at American University, pioneered the field of litigation public relations and refined his ideas during seven years of pro bono media advising for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He is the author of two previous books.

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