The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment

The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment

by Franklin E. Zimring


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The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment by Franklin E. Zimring

Why does the United States continue to employ the death penalty when fifty other developed democracies have abolished it? Why does capital punishment become more problematic each year? How can the death penalty conflict be resolved?
In The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment, Frank Zimring reveals that the seemingly insoluble turmoil surrounding the death penalty reflects a deep and long-standing division in American values, a division that he predicts will soon bring about the end of capital punishment in our country. On the one hand, execution would seem to violate our nation's highest legal principles of fairness and due process. It sets us increasingly apart from our allies and indeed is regarded by European nations as a barbaric and particularly egregious form of American exceptionalism. On the other hand, the death penalty represents a deeply held American belief in violent social justice that sees the hangman as an agent of local control and safeguard of community values. Zimring uncovers the most troubling symptom of this attraction to vigilante justice in the lynch mob. He shows that the great majority of executions in recent decades have occurred in precisely those Southern states where lynchings were most common a hundred years ago. It is this legacy, Zimring suggests, that constitutes both the distinctive appeal of the death penalty in the United States and one of the most compelling reasons for abolishing it.
Impeccably researched and engagingly written, Contradictions in American Capital Punishment casts a clear new light on America's long and troubled embrace of the death penalty.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195178203
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 10/01/2004
Series: Studies in Crime and Public Policy Series
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 6.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Franklin E. Zimring is the William G. Simon Professor of Law and Chair of the Criminal Justice Research Program at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Crime Is Not the Problem and American Youth Violence.

Table of Contents

I.Divergent Trends1
1.The Peculiar Present of American Capital Punishment3
2.More Than a Trend: Abolition in the Developed Nations16
3.The Symbolic Transformation of American Capital Punishment42
II.Explaining the American Difference65
4.Federalism and Its Discontents67
5.The Vigilante Tradition and Modern Executions89
6.The Consequences of Contradictory Values119
III.Capital Punishment in the American Future141
7.The No-Win 1990s143
8.The Beginning of the End179
Appendix AStatistical Materials on Lynchings and Executions207
Appendix BReported Frequencies of National Death Penalty Policy, 1980 to 2001213
Appendix CDeath Row and Execution Statistics227
Appendix DNew Survey Analysis Materials229
Appendix EJustified Killings by Citizens and Police, by State237
Appendix FReview of Death Penalty Exoneration Data from the Death Penalty Information Center241

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