Mercy on Trial: What It Means to Stop an Execution

Overview

"In this work, Austin Sarat provides the first book-length work on executive clemency. He turns our focus from questions of guilt and innocence to the very meaning of mercy." From the history of capital clemency in the twentieth century to surrounding legal controversies and philosophical debates about when (if ever) mercy should be extended, Sarat examines the issue comprehensively. And he discusses the anxiety accompanying the use of these powers in a society dedicated to the rule of law. In the end, Sarat acknowledges the risks associated with ...
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Mercy on Trial: What It Means to Stop an Execution

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Overview

"In this work, Austin Sarat provides the first book-length work on executive clemency. He turns our focus from questions of guilt and innocence to the very meaning of mercy." From the history of capital clemency in the twentieth century to surrounding legal controversies and philosophical debates about when (if ever) mercy should be extended, Sarat examines the issue comprehensively. And he discusses the anxiety accompanying the use of these powers in a society dedicated to the rule of law. In the end, Sarat acknowledges the risks associated with mercy - but, he argues, those risks are worth taking.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Law Journal
A multi-layered and thought-provoking book. . . . Mercy on Trial is an important contribution to death penalty jurisprudence. In an era when the death penalty debate focuses so heavily on tinkering with the machinery, it is inspiring to come across such a well-written call to respond to the higher instincts within us: the instincts to empathize and forgive.
— JaneAnne Murray
Law and Politics Book Review
This book is rich in detail for those who care about these issues. Its observation that clemency is disorderly when framed only as mercy is well-taken. There are, fortunately, other good reasons for granting clemency.
— Edward Kent
Times
This book is a welcome and most original addition to this troubling topic.
— John Cooper
Wisconsin Lawyer
Austin Sarat deftly deconstructs recent examples of clemency to illustrate the illusion of mercy in the clemency process.
— Daniel P. Patrykus
Theoretical Criminology
Mercy on Trial offers several insights for those interested in crime, law and capital punishment. It is at once a theoretically sophisticated treatment of the role of mercy and clemency in a liberal legal system, as well as a concise history of 20th-century mass capital clemencies. But perhaps most importantly, Mercy on Trial provides a nuanced analysis of Governor Ryan's high-profile and controversial mass commutation.
— Paul J. Kaplan
Choice
Austin Sarat has written yet another thoughtful and thought-provoking book on the death penalty. . . . Sarat clearly and profoundly considers if, how, and when executive branches of government should use [clemency] with respect to the death penalty.
Harvard Law Review
Professor Sarat is a merciless researcher . . . and provides an arresting account of mercy in the modern age that will engage readers on all sides of the debate.
New York Law Journal - JaneAnne Murray
A multi-layered and thought-provoking book. . . . Mercy on Trial is an important contribution to death penalty jurisprudence. In an era when the death penalty debate focuses so heavily on tinkering with the machinery, it is inspiring to come across such a well-written call to respond to the higher instincts within us: the instincts to empathize and forgive.
Law and Politics Book Review - Edward Kent
This book is rich in detail for those who care about these issues. Its observation that clemency is disorderly when framed only as mercy is well-taken. There are, fortunately, other good reasons for granting clemency.
Times - John Cooper
This book is a welcome and most original addition to this troubling topic.
Theoretical Criminology - Paul J. Kaplan
Mercy on Trial offers several insights for those interested in crime, law and capital punishment. It is at once a theoretically sophisticated treatment of the role of mercy and clemency in a liberal legal system, as well as a concise history of 20th-century mass capital clemencies. But perhaps most importantly, Mercy on Trial provides a nuanced analysis of Governor Ryan's high-profile and controversial mass commutation.
Wisconsin Lawyer - Daniel P. Patrykus
Austin Sarat deftly deconstructs recent examples of clemency to illustrate the illusion of mercy in the clemency process.
From the Publisher

Winner of the 2006 James Boyd White Prize, Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities

"Professor Sarat is a merciless researcher . . . and provides an arresting account of mercy in the modern age that will engage readers on all sides of the debate."--Harvard Law Review

"A multi-layered and thought-provoking book. . . . Mercy on Trial is an important contribution to death penalty jurisprudence. In an era when the death penalty debate focuses so heavily on tinkering with the machinery, it is inspiring to come across such a well-written call to respond to the higher instincts within us: the instincts to empathize and forgive."--JaneAnne Murray, New York Law Journal

"Austin Sarat has written yet another thoughtful and thought-provoking book on the death penalty. . . . Sarat clearly and profoundly considers if, how, and when executive branches of government should use [clemency] with respect to the death penalty."--Choice

"This book is rich in detail for those who care about these issues. Its observation that clemency is disorderly when framed only as mercy is well-taken. There are, fortunately, other good reasons for granting clemency."--Edward Kent, Law and Politics Book Review

"This book is a welcome and most original addition to this troubling topic."--John Cooper, Times (London)

"Mercy on Trial offers several insights for those interested in crime, law and capital punishment. It is at once a theoretically sophisticated treatment of the role of mercy and clemency in a liberal legal system, as well as a concise history of 20th-century mass capital clemencies. But perhaps most importantly, Mercy on Trial provides a nuanced analysis of Governor Ryan's high-profile and controversial mass commutation."--Paul J. Kaplan, Theoretical Criminology

"Austin Sarat deftly deconstructs recent examples of clemency to illustrate the illusion of mercy in the clemency process."--Daniel P. Patrykus, Wisconsin Lawyer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691133997
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/30/2007
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College and Five College Fortieth Anniversary Professor. He is author, coauthor, or editor of more than fifty books, including "When the State Kills" and "Law, Violence, and the Possibility of Justice" (both Princeton), and "Divorce Lawyers and their Clients". His teaching has been featured in the "New York Times" and on the "Today Show". Sarat was the corecipient of the 2004 Reginald Heber Smith Award given biennially to honor the best scholarship on "the subject of equal access to justice."

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Mercy, clemency, and capital punishment : the Illinois story 1
Ch. 2 Capital clemency in the twentieth century : putting Illinois in context 33
Ch. 3 The jurisprudence of clemency : what place for mercy? 69
Ch. 4 Governing clemency : from redemption to retribution 94
Ch. 5 Clemency without mercy : George Ryan's dilemma 116
Ch. 6 Conclusion : on mercy and its risks 143
App. A George Ryan : "I must act" 163
App. B Capital clemency, 1900-2004 : commutations by state 181
App. C Chronology of capital clemency, 1900-2004 : commutations by governor 189
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