Anatomy of an Execution: The Life and Death of Douglas Christopher Thomas
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Anatomy of an Execution: The Life and Death of Douglas Christopher Thomas

by Todd C. Peppers, Laura Trevvett Anderson
     
 

The crime and punishment of a juvenile offender

It is an undisputed fact that Chris Thomas was guilty of participating in a brutal double homicide. He was convicted of killing his girlfriend's parents in November of 1990, was sentenced to death in November of 1991, and executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia in January of 2000. Chris Thomas was one of the

Overview

The crime and punishment of a juvenile offender

It is an undisputed fact that Chris Thomas was guilty of participating in a brutal double homicide. He was convicted of killing his girlfriend's parents in November of 1990, was sentenced to death in November of 1991, and executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia in January of 2000. Chris Thomas was one of the last juvenile offenders to be put to death before the Supreme Court ruled that the execution of juveniles constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

In Anatomy of an Execution, Todd C. Peppers and Laura Trevvett Anderson tell the entire story, shedding light on issues surrounding the death penalty—such as the quality of court appointed counsel, the execution of juveniles (from both a constitutional law and public policy perspective), conditions of confinement on death row, and the role of spiritual adivisors in the condemned's last days. While providing insight into the legal workings of the modern death penalty system, the book also offers a rare glimpse of a young, condemned man's life before and after the crime: a childhood ravaged by loss neglect, a toxic first love, the brutal murders, trial and sentencing, and, ultimately, a chance at redemption. This is not an effort to excuse a crime but an assertion that even a murderer's life is worth more than its worst act.

Editorial Reviews

Colman McCarthy
…an encompassing and often soulful account of the brief life of a person who was both victimizer and victim, friendless and befriended. No sentimentalizing is to be found in these pages of well-documented and carefully crafted prose…A major addition to death-penalty literature, what Peppers and Anderson tell about one inmate in one state in one cell block could easily be the story of any of the 3,200 people now stashed on the nation's death rows. The story of Chris Thomas is unique only because two educators chose not to let it be forgotten that he was a human being. They saw him as more than his crime.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher

“A major addition to death-penalty literature.”—Washington Post Book World

“Anatomy of an Execution is a serious treatment worth reading for anyone interested in the court system and the death penalty.”—Roanoke Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781555537135
Publisher:
Northeastern University Press
Publication date:
11/30/2009
Pages:
309
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)

What People are saying about this

Sister Helen Prejean
“Justice Harry Blackmun once said in a capital case the trial is the main event, but Anatomy of an Execution shows Chris Thomas’s trial was nothing more than a momentary pause on the way to his execution. It wasn’t only the system and the players in it that let down Chris Thomas, the book also demonstrates that again and again the adults who might have prevented the tragedy of the murders and the execution leave this young boy to grieve alone and find his own way in a world he doesn’t know or understand. I urge you to read this hauntingly personal book.”
Victor Streib
“This is truly extraordinary work. Anatomy of an Execution combines excellent scholarship and legal analysis with a compelling and tragic life story. As such, it is accessible to lay readers and true crime buffs, as well as instructive to criminologists and lawyers. Very few if any books of this genre are its match.”

Meet the Author

TODD C. PEPPERS is an associate professor in the Department of Public Affairs at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, and a lecturer in law at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia. He is the author of Courtiers of the Marble Palace: The Rise and Influence of the Supreme Court Law Clerk. LAURA TREVVETT ANDERSON was Chris Thomas’s high school teacher, corresponded with him extensively while on death row, and served as his spiritual advisor during his final days in the death house.

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