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From the Publisher
The death penalty--its morality, constitutionality, social effects--will remain a controversial subject for years. Miller and Bowman's account of Willie Francis's double execution provides an excellent framework within which to consider (or reconsider) the death penalty debate. In addition to this case study, the book provides a lucid insight into the political and judicial processes that govern our lives. The authors tell the story of a black teenager sent to the electric chair twice within one year because the first execution attempt failed. They also raise important questions about the death penalty, including its humanity, our methods of execution, our constitutional rights and the possibility of executing an innocent person. Most important, a question that permeates the book is 'Do the methods of execution violate the cruel and unusual punishment provisions of the Eighth Amendment?' Miller and Bowman present the case clearly and dramatically, from the botched execution to the successful execution; they also forcefully and thoughtfully explain the Francis case in between these two events. The endnotes, bibliography, and index are quite good. The book can be read by anyone with an interest in the issue, and is highly recommended for public and undergraduate libraries.
Death by Installments is legal history on an award-winning scale. In addition to their comprehensive presentation and analysis of the case itself, the authors appropriately remind us that blacks were still powerless in the South of the 1940s, which guaranteed that Willie Francis would receive prejudicial treatment at the outset in Louisiana. . . . No historian, attorney or sensitive layman can finish this book without learning something more about human frailty, the imperfection of the law, and man's ongoing inhumanity to man.
The American Journal of Legal History
[This book] is not just a 'good' but a splendidly written, expertly researched, grippingly told, and passionately presened tome that can proudly take its place alongside Anthony Lewis's Gideon's Trumpet. Death by Installments combines in expert measure the grisly tale of Willie Francis's double electrocution with the kind of insight into the judicial process that provides a much-needed comprehension of the machinery of government and politics. Not only do the authors engage our emotions, they appeal to our sense of justice while presenting us with the necessary facts to allow informed judgments.
Henry J. Abraham, University of Virginia