BOOKS: "The Confession" by John Grisham
A new novel by acclaimed author John Grisham, entitled “The Confession,” tells the story of Donte Drumm, an innocent man who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Texas. The book begins as the execution of Drumm is only four days away and another man confesses to the crime to a minister. Although a work of fiction, Grisham’s work offers a critique of our criminal justice system and of the death penalty in particular. USA Today's review of the book notes, "Readers who share [Grisham's] views as well as those sitting on the fence will find much to love and lament in the tragic story of Donté Drumm."
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BOOKS: “The Search for Lofie Louise”
“The Search for Lofie Louise” by Helen B. Anthony tells the true story of Louise Peete, a woman convicted of two murders in California over two decades apart in the early 1900s. She denied her guilt in both instances, and her story and trial were widely covered by the media in California. Peete received a life sentence for the first murder and a death sentence for the second; she was executed on April 11, 1947. The author captures the history of the death penalty in an earlier era. Today, the author posits, Peete might have been diagnosed with severe psychological problems and given help. Louise Peete was the first wife of the author's father.
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BOOKS: "Evaluation for Capital Sentencing"
A new book by Dr. Mark D. Cunningham, “Evaluation for Capital Sentencing,” provides conceptual and practical perspectives on mitigation and violence risk assessment, as well as current scientific data regarding these issues. The book focuses on information critical to forensic mental health professionals who conduct evaluations in capital cases. Prof. Andrea Lyon, Director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases in Chicago, said, “This book is an invaluable tool for mental health practitioners, mitigation specialists and attorneys. Written in an accessible style, it puts in one place everything a mental health professional would need to know about doing assessment - and teaches the science and law of mitigation while it is at it.” Dr. Cunningham is Board Certified in Clinical Psychology and in Forensic Psychology. The book is part of a series entitled "Best Practices in Forensic Mental Health Assessment" published by Oxford University Press.
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BOOKS: “Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition”
A new book by David Garland, “Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition,” offers a fresh perspective on why the death penalty endures in the United States when so many other countries in the Western world have already abolished it. The book seeks to understand the persistence of the death penalty in the U.S. as a social fact, using sociological, historical and legal analyses to explain the unique and peculiar manner in which the death penalty is applied. Garland concludes that the death penalty has survived in the United States because it is deeply connected to the fundamentally American institutions of local autonomy and popular democracy. Anthony Amsterdam, Professor of Law at New York University, said of this book, “This is indispensable reading for students of criminal justice, race, and American culture, for lawyers and judges in the pathways of death, and for all who want to understand why our country can neither put capital punishment to any good use nor put an end to it.”
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BOOKS: "Ending the Death Penalty: The European Experience in Global Perspective"
A new book by Andrew Hammel offers insights into the different perspectives on the death penalty in America and Europe. "Ending the Death Penalty: The European Experience in Global Perspective" examines three countries that do not have the death penalty (Germany, France and the United Kingdom), and analyzes how capital punishment was ended in those countries. Hammel ultimately believes that the governmental structure, culture, and political traditions in the U.S. make the European model of abolition unlikey to succeed here, though he also states that "important piecemeal victories" in limiting capital punishment are likely to continue in the U.S. Andrew Hammel is Assistant Professor for American Law at the University of Dusseldorf, Germany. He has worked as a lawyer with the Texas Defender Service, where he represented death row inmates in U.S. state and federal courts.
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BOOKS: "False Justice: Eight Myths that Convict the Innocent"
A new book written by Jim and Nancy Petro offers a comprehensive analysis of how miscarriages of justice result in wrongful convictions. Jim Petro, a former Republican Attorney General of Ohio, has observed the justice system from all sides and was appalled by the frequent mistakes in the criminal justice system. As attorney general, he advocated along with the Innocence Project to help free a man wrongfully convicted of murder and rape. In “False Justice,” the Petros expose a series of myths and misconceptions about the American justice system, such as, Only the guilty confess; and Wrongful conviction is the result of innocent human error. These misconceptions, they argued, not only prevent juries from carefully weighing evidence but also prevent local judges and prosecution teams from examining cases in an unbiased fashion. "False Justice" will be released in October.
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NEW RESOURCES: "The State of the World's Human Rights"
Amnesty International recently released its annual report on international abuses and progress in the field of human rights: "The State of the World's Human Rights." The report covers January to December 2009 and addresses human rights issues in every country around the world. The report also highlights countries' involvement in international and regional human rights treaties. Among the nations in the Americas, the United States had the most active death penalty practices with over 100 new death sentences and 52 executions. Although death sentences were handed down in the Bahamas, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago, no executions were carried out. The majority of North American and South American countries are abolitionist in law or in practice.
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BOOKS: Voices of the Death Penalty Debate
Voices of the Death Penalty Debate: A Citizen’s Guide to Capital Punishment is a new book that explores arguments for and against the death penalty through testimony given at the historic 2004 and 2005 hearings in New York on whether the state's death penalty should be reinstated. The state's law was struck down by the N.Y. Court of Appeals in 2004. Authored by Russell Murphy, a Suffolk University Law School professor, the book walks readers through testimony from experts, ordinary citizens, victims, organizations, religious leaders, and individuals who had been exonerated and freed from death row. For more information on this book, click here. (New York's legislature has repeatedly refused to reinstate the death penalty, and in 2007 the last person was removed from the state's death row, ending a 12-year experiment with capital punishment, which had been reinstated in 1995).
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BOOKS: The Last Gasp: The Rise and Fall of the American Gas Chamber
The Last Gasp: The Rise and Fall of the American Gas Chamber details the history and development of the gas chamber as a method of execution in the United States. Author Scott Christianson explores connections between the gas chamber and the eugenics movement, as well as new evidence about Hitler’s adoption of gas chamber technology developed in the United States. Charles Lanier, Director of the Capital Punishment Research Initiative, said, "Scott Christianson has used his extensive experience as an investigative reporter, criminal justice official, historian, and scholar to probe one of the darkest and most neglected regions of American death penalty history—the story of the gas chamber. This book opens new doors and charts new territory in its gripping historical tale documenting the development and use of lethal gas as a method of execution in the United States."
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BOOKS: Last Words of the Executed
Last Words of the Executed by Robert K. Elder is a compilation of the final statements of death row inmates shortly before their execution. The book, with a foreword by Studs Terkel, also describes the crime and some of the social setting of each case presented. According to a review in The Economist, "The last words are remarkable for their remorse, humour, hatred, resignation, fear and bravado…. America's diverse heritage is stamped even onto its killers' final moments." Sister Helen Prejean wrote, "This is a dangerous book. Who knows how we will emerge from the encounter?" Robert Elder has written for the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Salon and many other publications. He currently teaches journalism at Northwestern University.
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