BOOKS: Against the Death Penalty: International Initiatives and Implications

A new book, Against the Death Penalty: International Initiatives and Implications, features leading scholars on the death penalty and their analysis of both the promotion and demise of the punishment around the world. It considers the current efforts to restrict the death penalty within the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the African Commission, and the Commonwealth Caribbean. It also investigates perspectives and questions for retentionist countries with a focus on the United States, China, Korea, and Taiwan.  Among the authors in this compendium are Roger Hood, William Schabas, Peter Hodgkinson, and DPIC's Executive Director, Richard Dieter.

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BOOKS: Jesus on Death Row

Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and present faculty member at a conservative Christian law school in Texas, has writtenJesus on Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and American Capital Punishment.

The book offers a comparison between the trial and execution of Jesus and a capital case conducted in the U.S. justice system. The use of paid informants, conflicting testimony of witnesses, and the denial of clemency in both Jesus’ case and in recent cases in the U.S. are cited as examples of existing parallels.

The book is scheduled for release in February 2009 and can be pre-ordered here.


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BOOKS: Streib's Death Penalty in a Nutshell

Elon University School of Law’s Professor Victor Streib has released a new edition of his book, Streib’s Death Penalty in a Nutshell. It covers both the substantive and the procedural law of the death penalty and begins with arguments for and against the death penalty and an explanation of its basic constitutional challenges and limitations. Professor Streib covers capital crimes and defenses, as well as trial level and post trial procedural issues. Other topics include race and gender bias, executing the innocent, and international and foreign law issues. This book, which serves both as supplemental reading for death penalty courses and as a concise, narrative explanation of death penalty law, is current as of July 2008. Copies of the book can be purchased here.

(V. Streib, "Streib's Death Penalty in a Nutshell," 3rd ed., 2008).  See also Books.



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BOOKS: Execution's Doorstep: True Stories of the Innocent and Near Damned

In her new book, Execution’s Doorstep: The True Stories of the Innocent and Near Damned, author Leslie Lytle provides a compelling narrative recounting the harrowing journeys of five innocent men who spent many years on death row. Through extensive research and interviews, Lytle has succeeded in revealing the deep pain and suffering that such injustice yields, putting a human face to the recurring problem of innocence on death row. The book explores all aspects of the cases, from the crime and the trials to the time spent on death row and the difficult struggle to adjust to life outside of a maximum security prison. Through the stories of these five men, Lytle provides readers with a penetrating look at America’s criminal justice and capital punishment systems, showing their fallibility.

Leslie Lytle is the Executive Director of the Cumberland Center for Justice and Peace. (Northeastern Univ. Press 2008). To date, 130 men and women have been exonerated from death row since 1973. See Innocence and Books.

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BOOKS: Abolition, One Man's Battle Against the Death Penalty

A compelling narrative of the legal and political fight to end the death penalty in France has just been released in an English translation. Abolition: One Man’s Battle Against the Death Penalty is authored by Robert Badinter, probably the single person most responsible for abolishing the death penalty in France. He begins his story in 1972 when one of his clients was guillotined in a case he felt was unjust. Upon dedicating his career to abolishing the death penalty, he agreed to represent any convict facing capital punishment, and he succeeded in having six death sentences overturned. Readers follow Badinter’s journey from writing the legislation to ban the death penalty to the push through the National Assembly and Senate. His narrative moves from courtroom experiences to the political front throughout this memoir. Badinter currently sits in the French Senate and is one of the founders of the World Congress Against the Death Penalty.

The new edition can be purchased at (R. Badinter, Abolition: One man’s battle against the death penalty, Northeastern University Press, 2008; translated by Jeremy Mercer). See Books.

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BOOKS: Murder and the Death Penalty in Massachusetts

Murder and the Death Penalty in Massachusetts by Alan Rogers explores the unique history of the capital punishment in Massachusetts. Rogers chronicles the more than 300 years that Massachusetts executed men and women in the state through to the eventual abolition of the punishment in 1984. The historical approach recounts the Puritans’ views on capital punishment in the 1700’s, the 1830’s House vote that almost abolished the death penalty, and the cases that were the turning point for the state.

A sample of reviews of this book:

“The range and depth of coverage are impressive…The twelve chapters address key aspects of jurisprudence, such as defendant rights, the insanity issue, the right to an attorney, criminal discovery, confession, and the selection of an impartial jury…This is masterful scholarship on an immensely important subject.” Lawrence Goodheart, author of Mad Yankees.

"This book is a perfect model for any future death penalty historian- one can only hope that Rogers’ successors will do for a state such as Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio what he has done for Massachusetts.” Hugo Bedeau, author of The Death Penalty in America.

Murder and the Death Penalty in Massachusetts
(University of Massachusetts Press, 2008) can be purchased here. See also Books.

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BOOKS: The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective

The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective by Roger Hood and Carolyn Hoyle is the Fourth Edition of a text that highlights the latest developments in the death penalty around the world. Roger Hood utilizes his experience as a consultant to the United Nations' annual survey of capital punishment in compiling a wide range of information from non-governmental organizations and academic literature. The book explores both the advances in legal challenges to the death penalty and the reduction in executions, while noting the continued existence of human rights abuses. Problems include unfair trails, police abuse, painful forms of execution, and excessive periods of time spent in inhumane conditions on death row. The authors explore the latest issues related to capital punishment such as deterrence, arbitrariness, and what influence victims' families should have in sentencing.

A sample of reviews of earlier editions of this book:

"brings an international human rights perspective to the discussion ... its wordwide perspective brings another dimension and greater depth to the arguments surrounding the return of executions to America.'' -Leigh B. Bienen, The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

"excellent study ... is likely to remain for some time the scholarly authority that complements the regular and continuing publications of Amnesty International and other campaigning organizations." -Andrew Rutherford, University of Southampton, British Journal of Criminology.

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NEW VOICES: "How New Jersey Abolished the Death Penalty"

In 1982, as a second term Assemblyman, Raymond Lesniak voted to reinstate the death penalty in New Jersey. In December 2007, New Jersey voted to abolish the death penalty, becoming the first state in 40 years to accomplish this. Senator Lesniak was one of the sponsors and legislative leaders of the abolition bill. He has written a new book: "The Road to Abolition: How New Jersey Abolished the Death Penatly."

In commenting on the book, Senator Lesniak said, "Why do I care so much about the murderers on death row who, except for the innocent ones, committed the most heinous acts of murder imaginable? I don't. I'm not as enlightened as Sister Helen Prejean. But I do care about the damage that holding on to anger, resentment and the need for vengeance does to us as a society and as human beings."

For more information about the book, see The Road to Justice and Peace. Posted May 10, 2008.

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BOOKS: “Last Rights” by Rev. Joseph Ingle with Introduction by Mike Farrell

Reverend Joseph B. Ingle’s book, Last Rights: Thirteen Fatal Encounters with the State's Justice, will be re-released in May with a new introduction by Mike Farrell (of M*A*S*H*) and with its original forward by William Styron.  Rev. Ingle, who has counseled inmates on death row for over 30 years, recounts his close relationships with 13 of these inmates before their executions. Devoting a chapter to each one, Ingle stresses the need to see each inmate as an individual. He writes, “The public needs to see them for who they were and how their love enriched my life.”

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BOOKS: The Innocence Commission

The Innocence Commission, a new book by Jon B. Gould, describes how the advent of DNA testing and other forensic advances in the criminal justice system have led to serious efforts to understand how so many wrongful convictions have happened. In particular, The Innocence Commission details the first years of the Innocence Commission for Virginia (ICVA), which was the first in the country to conduct systemic research into all wrongful convictions in the state. Gould, the Chair of ICVA, examines twelve cases of wrongful conviction in Virginia, including one death penalty case, pointing out the instances where the wrongful conviction could have been avoided and offering suggestions on how to prevent such mistakes in the future. Ultimately, Gould concludes, innocence commissions are necessary in every state to ascertain where weaknesses in the system exist and to offer feasible solutions.

The Library Journal writes that The Innocence Commission is “A thoughtful and disturbing account of his founding in 2003 of the Innocence Commission for Virginia (ICVA) to investigate wrongful convictions. . . . Written for the general public, Gould's book has important lessons for attorneys and policymakers as well.”

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