“This slender but closely argued book is an account of Turow's path to a 'no' vote on capital punishment....As one who has long wrestled with this issue, and who as an editorialist many years ago from time to time had to do that wrestling in public, I regard this as the most convincing, levelheaded analysis of it I have encountered.” The Washington Post
“Concise and incisive...As one would expect from a writer of Turow's gifts, Ultimate Punishment makes for compelling and thoughtful reading.” Chicago Tribune
“Turow's brief narrative illuminates two faces of the death penalty in the United States. Each, as he suggests, should give us serious pause....[Ultimate Punishment is] engaging, and, more important, it speaks to an audience not always considered by death penalty opponents: people, like Turow himself, for whom capital punishment has a strong visceral appeal. Turow does not minimize either the nature of the crimes or the deep anger they evoke in the people forced to reckon with them. He gets it. He will thus be read with sympathy by readers open to arguments against capital punishment but alienated by what they perceive, rightly or wrongly, as the indifference of abolitionists to the suffering of the victims.” Los Angeles Times
“By clearly and methodically sorting through the issues regarding the ultimate punishment, Turow has performed a public service. By turns shocking and engrossing, this book is highly recommended.” Library Journal
As one who has long wrestled with this issue, and who as an editorialist many years ago from time to time had to do that wrestling in public, I regard this as the most convincing, level-headed analysis of it I have encountered.Jonathan Yardley
Is there anything new to say about whether the death penalty should be abolished? It turns out there is. Bestselling author Turow (Reversible Errors) has some useful insights into this fiercely debated subject, based on his experiences as a prosecutor and, in his postprosecutorial years, working on behalf of death-row inmates, and his two years on Illinois's Commission on Capital Punishment, charged by the former Gov. George Ryan with examining how the death penalty might be more fairly administered. This is a sober and elegantly concise examination of a complex, fraught topic by an admitted "agnostic." His views veering one way and then the other, Turow shares his back-and-forth reasoning as he carefully discusses each issue, from the possible execution of an innocent person (a serious danger) to whether execution is a deterrent (it's not). Perhaps most illuminating are Turow's thoughts on victims' rights (which he says must be weighed against the needs of the community); on what to do with "the worst of the worst" (he visits a maximum security prison to meet multiple-murderer Henry Brison, who, Turow says, "most closely resembles... Hannibal Lecter"); and the question of what he calls "moral proportion," the notion that execution is meant to restore moral balance, which, he says, requires an "unfailingly accurate" system of justice. This measured weighing of the facts will be most valuable to those who, like Turow, are on the fence-they will find an invaluable, objective look at both sides of this critical but highly charged debate. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Writing from the perspective of a former prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, appellant attorney, and member of the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment, Turow examines various aspects and pros and cons of capital punishment. Reviewing the history of the death penalty, victims' feelings toward defendants, statistics, and examples of how the death penalty has been applied to specific cases in Illinois, the author ultimately shares his final stand on the question, "Is the death penalty ever justified?" Turow provides an excellent reading with an expressive, accent-free voice and distinct speech. Useful for law, debate, political science, and ethics students and for those interested in capital punishment or the Illinois criminal justice system. Recommended for all libraries.-Laurie Selwyn, Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Sober thoughts on capital punishment. Over his years as a prosecutor, bestselling novelist Turow (Reversible Errors, 2002, etc.) evolved from holding Aquarian views on human nature to holding Hobbesian ones. Still, when it came to the death penalty, he says in this brief collection of ruminations, he knew the cautionary lessons and considered himself an agnostic on the issue. But in 2000, when the governor of Illinois appointed a commission, including Turow, to investigate the state’s capital-justice system, it was a moment of truth: "No more dodging my conscience, no more mouthing liberal pieties while secretly hoping some conservative showed up to talk hard-nosed realities." Turow now had to ask himself about the goals of such punishment, whether some individuals were perdurably evil and what kind of power the government should be allowed to wield. On a practical level, he found much wanting in the Illinois system: that confessions no longer had the weight they once did (especially when beaten out of suspects); that "emotional momentum" to solve particularly repellent crimes can result in fastening onto the first suspect and chewing away long after the bone has gone cold; that the creeping influence of victims’ rights obscured the character of the defendant and the crime involved; and that deterrence simply was not a compelling rationale. Philosophically, Turow hesitates over the question of moral proportions, the idea that the punishment of a crime be an unequivocal statement of moral order. As for Illinois, he found its capital-justice system sprawling and arbitrary, without logic as to the selections for execution, and lacking a guiding hand of reason. The commission’srecommendationsspecific ones, keeping the option of death to a minimumwere ignored by the get-tough political agenda of the new governor. Well-presented, if dry and hardly original. In a handful of sorry examples from Illinois, Turow's storytelling talents shine.