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

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Convinced that supporters of the death penalty would change their minds if they understood the problems with the system, Stack analyzed the cases of individuals exonerated from death row and identified the most common features of their cases, including mistaken eyewitness identification, systemic corruption and racism, and incompetent lawyers. Each of these is discussed in terms of its general aspects and in reference to an exemplary case. Stack also presents an account of Illinois Governor George Ryan's transformation into an opponent of the death penalty and concludes with discussion of how to correct the injustices of the death penalty."

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Reference & Research Book News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275992217
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

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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