Grave Injustice: Unearthing Wrongful Executions

Grave Injustice: Unearthing Wrongful Executions


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On September 21, 2011, the controversial execution of Georgia inmate Troy Davis, who spent twenty years on death row for a crime he most likely did not commit, revealed the complexity of death penalty trials, the flaws in America’s justice system, and the rift between those who are for or against the death penalty. Davis’s execution reignited a long-standing debate about whether the death penalty is an appropriate form of justice. In Grave Injustice Richard A. Stack seeks to advance the anti–death penalty argument by examining the cases of individuals who, like Davis, have been executed but are likely innocent. By telling the stories of Jesse Tafero, Ruben Cantu, Carlos DeLuna, Cameron Todd Willingham, Larry Griffin, and others, Stack puts a human face on the ultimate and irrevocable tragedy of capital punishment. Although polls indicate Americans favor death sentences approximately three to one, many respondents change their position when presented with the facts about capital punishment. Stack’s compelling descriptions of nineteen wrongful executions illustrate the flaws of the death penalty, which, he argues, is ineffective in deterring crime and costs more than sentences of life without parole. He demonstrates that racial disparities in implementation, procedural errors, incompetent defense attorneys, and mistaken eyewitness identification lead to an alarming number of wrongful convictions. But influencing public opinion is only part of the battle to end state-sanctioned killing. Stack profiles six anti–death penalty warriors, demonstrating the range of what can be done, and what remains to be done, to move toward a more compassionate society.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612341620
Publisher: Potomac Books
Publication date: 04/28/2013
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

RICHARD A. STACK serves on the faculty of the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC. He is the author of three previously published books, including Dead Wrong: Violence, Vengeance & the Victims of Capital Punishment (Praeger, 2006). He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Table of Contents

Foreword Benjamin Todd Jealous ix

Preface xv

Acknowledgments xxvii

Introduction: Framing the Death Penalty Debate 1

Section 1 Profiles in Injustice

Part I The Abuse of Science

1 Cameron Todd Willingham 41

2 Derek Rocco Barnabei 59

3 David Wayne Spence 64

4 Joseph Roger O'Dell 70

5 Claude Jones 75

Part II Dubious Eyewitnesses

6 Jesse Tafero 81

7 Ruben Cantu 93

8 James Adams 105

9 James Beathard 110

10 Timothy Baldwin 114

Part III Government Misconduct

11 Larry Griffin 121

12 Carlos DeLuna 131

13 Girvies Davis 137

Part IV Ineffective Counsel

14 Johnny Frank Garrett 145

15 William Jasper Darden 154

16 Gary Graham 158

Part V Victims of Political Pressure

17 Leonel Herrera 165

18 Roy Michael Roberts 180

Section 2 Profiles in Justice

Part VI Death Penalty Angels

19 Sister Helen Prejean 189

20 Renny Cushing 195

Part VII Death Penalty Warriors

21 Shujaa Graham 203

22 Martina Correia 208

Part VIII Death Penalty Reformers

23 Dan Duffy 223

24 Paul E. Pfeifer 232

Conclusion: Where Do We Go from Here? 239

Additional Resources 253

Index 257

About the Author 267

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