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

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

by Richard A. Stack
     
 

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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

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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." - Reference & Research Book News

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780313084492
Publisher:
ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date:
09/30/2006
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
862 KB

What People are saying about this

Marc Mauer
"In Dead Wrong Rick Stack reveals the human dimension of the death penalty, from the agonizing decision making on clemency by Governor Ryan to the horror of people spending years on Death Row for crimes they did not commit. Such stories need to be a critical part of our public debate on the death penalty."
Sister Helen Prejean
"Polls of Americans consistently reveal broad support for capital punishment. When respondents are given more information, however, that support softens, resulting in an even split of opinions. The well considered reasoning of Dead Wrong can significantly inform the public discourse on this life and death issue. As an advisor to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Stack worked to change the critical inquiry from, Is capital punishment a deterrent to crime? to Can we trust our government to take human life when the criminal justice system is so flawed? I recommend Stack's cutting-edge vision to anyone wishing to reduce the level of violence in our society."

Sister Helen Prejean

"Polls of Americans consistently reveal broad support for capital punishment. When respondents are given more information, however, that support softens, resulting in an even split of opinions. The well considered reasoning of Dead Wrong can significantly inform the public discourse on this life and death issue. As an advisor to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Stack worked to change the critical inquiry from, Is capital punishment a deterrent to crime? to Can we trust our government to take human life when the criminal justice system is so flawed? I recommend Stack's cutting-edge vision to anyone wishing to reduce the level of violence in our society."

Richard C. Dieter

"The times are rapidly changing around the death penalty and Richard Stack brings the reader up to date on the many developments that are influencing public attitudes on capital punishment in the U.S. The use of the death penalty is in decline and this book helps explain why, connecting the death penalty's earlier history to recent dramatic events. This story is told in a way that will be accessible and of interest to a broad range of readers."

Richard C. Dieter, Executive Director, Death Penalty Information Center

Marc Mauer

"In Dead Wrong Rick Stack reveals the human dimension of the death penalty, from the agonizing decision making on clemency by Governor Ryan to the horror of people spending years on Death Row for crimes they did not commit. Such stories need to be a critical part of our public debate on the death penalty."

Marc Mauer, Executive Director, The Sentencing Project

Richard C. Dieter
"The times are rapidly changing around the death penalty and Richard Stack brings the reader up to date on the many developments that are influencing public attitudes on capital punishment in the U.S. The use of the death penalty is in decline and this book helps explain why, connecting the death penalty's earlier history to recent dramatic events. This story is told in a way that will be accessible and of interest to a broad range of readers."

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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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