Evolving Standards of Decency: Popular Culture and Capital Punishment

Evolving Standards of Decency: Popular Culture and Capital Punishment

by Mary Welek Atwell
     
 

ISBN-10: 0820467111

ISBN-13: 9780820467115

Pub. Date: 01/28/2004

Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.

The Supreme Court has looked to «evolving standards of decency» in determining whether the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Evolving Standards of Decency examines the ways in which popular culture portrays the death penalty. By analyzing literature and film, Atwell

Overview

The Supreme Court has looked to «evolving standards of decency» in determining whether the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Evolving Standards of Decency examines the ways in which popular culture portrays the death penalty. By analyzing literature and film, Atwell argues that capital punishment becomes much more complex when both offenders and victims are presented as fully developed individuals.
Numerous books and films from the last several decades expose flaws in the criminal justice system and provide audiences with stories that raise questions about race, class, and actual innocence in the administration of the ultimate punishment. Although most people will not read legal briefs supporting or challenging the death penalty, many will see films or read novels that raise issues about its fairness. Themes and images gathered through popular culture may ultimately influence whether Americans continue to believe that capital punishment conforms to their evolving standards of decency and justice.
Those studying justice issues, corrections, or capital punishment will find this an accessible and provocative work that places the stories read in novels or seen in movies in the context of the legal system that has the power of life and death.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780820467115
Publisher:
Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
Publication date:
01/28/2004
Series:
Politics, Media and Popular Culture Ser.
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
178

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsvii
Introduction1
Chapter 1The Public and Capital Punishment: Past and Present6
Historical Background6
A Look at Statistics13
Changing Public Opinion17
Conclusion22
Chapter 2"A Random Assortment of Pariahs": The Supreme Court Considers the Death Penalty24
The Evolution of Evolving Standards31
Structural Issues34
Categories of Defendants40
Divisions within the Court44
Chapter 3Real People and "True-Life Novels"48
Gary Gilmore: Why Did He Do It and What Did It Mean?48
The Context51
The System53
The Conclusion55
The "Boys" Who Killed in Cold Blood57
Nature or Nurture?58
The Legal Process61
The Rope63
Two Versions on Film65
An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States67
The Shame of Killing Pat Sonnier68
"Killing People Is Wrong"72
Both Sides73
Adapting Dead Man Walking74
Chapter 4Novels Transformed into Films78
If We Must Die, Let It Not Be Like Hogs79
The Senseless Slaughter of Songbirds83
Killing a Gift of God90
What's a Father to Do?96
Capital Punishment, Not Capital Torture103
Chapter 5Killing to Show That Killing Is Wrong: The Death Penalty in the Movies111
Just Doing Their Job112
No Chivalry for Bad Girls115
Actual Innocence121
Death by Guillotine125
Chapter 6If Words Could Kill: Crime Fiction and the Death Penalty128
"Them without the Capital Gets the Punishment"129
One More Texas Execution132
Money Walks, Rich Folks Never Do No Time137
There's Just No Point in Giving Up on a Human Being140
Chapter 7The Power of Stories145
Notes153
Bibliography169

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