BOOKS: "Deathquest: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Capital Punishment in the United States"

The fourth edition of Robert Bohm’s “Deathquest: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Capital Punishment in the United States,” is now available through Anderson Publishing.  The new edition is updated with discussion of the latest research on the effectiveness of the death penalty, the potential for discriminatory application, costs, and new data on miscarriages of justice, public opinion, and the influences of religion.  This textbook includes two new chapters on legal challenges to the death penalty and analysis of capital punishment by the U.S. Supreme Court since 1976.  Robert Bohm is a professor of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at the University of Central Florida.  A former corrections worker, Professor Bohm is a prolific author and speaker on capital punishment and other criminal justice topics.

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BOOKS: "Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment"

A classic book about the death penalty has recently been re-published and is now available in paperback and electronic form.  Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment was written by Michael Meltsner, currently a professor at Northeastern University School of Law, and one of the key architects at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund behind the challenge that led to Furman v. Georgia in 1972. This Supreme Court decision resulted in overturning every death penalty law and every death sentence in the country.  The book traces the history of that case and fits it into other significant events in the 1960s and early 1970s.  In a new Foreward to the book, Dr. Evan Mandery, an Associate Professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, writes, “This is the best and most important [book ever written about the death penalty in America.] . . .  Every serious scholar who wants to advance an argument about capital punishment in the United States - whether it is abolitionist or in favor of the death penalty, or merely a tactical assessment--cites this book.”

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BOOKS: "Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong"

A new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Raymond Bonner, Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong, investigates the shortcomings of the justice system in the case of Edward Lee Elmore, a black man sentenced to death in South Carolina in 1982. Elmore, who was semi-literate with intellectual disabilities, was sent to death row for the murder and sexual assault of a white woman, even though there was little connection between him and the victim.  He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death barely ninety days after the victim's body was found. Bonner describes a comprehensive story of racism, prosecutorial misconduct, and ineffective representation in Elmore's case and concludes that the same injustices occur in other murder cases across the country. DPIC Note: Elmore was eventually spared from execution when a South Carolina court ruled in 2010 that he suffered from mental retardation.  At one time, he was the longest serving death row inmate in the state.

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BOOKS: "Cruel and Unusual: The American Death Penalty and the Founders' Eighth Amendment"

A forthcoming book by John D. Bessler, "Cruel and Unusual: The American Death Penalty and the Founders' Eighth Amendment," discusses the history of the Eighth Amendment and the country's founders’ views on capital punishment. While the conventional wisdom is that the founders were avid death penalty supporters, Bessler's examination shows they had conflicting and ambivalent views on the subject. Bessler analyzes the U.S. Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment case law and argues that the death penalty should probably be held unconstitutional. Sister Helen Prejean, noted activist and author of Dead Man Walking, described Bessler's book as: “A searing indictment of capital punishment, this pioneering history of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause is destined to reframe America’s death penalty debate. As a definitive account of the Eighth Amendment’s origins and the Founding Fathers’ own ambivalent views on executions, it will forever change our perceptions of cruelty and penal reform in the founding era." John Bessler is an associate professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.

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BOOKS: "The Ultimate Sanction" by Robert Bohm

Professor Robert M. Bohm has published a new book on capital punishment, The Ultimate Sanction: Understanding the Death Penalty Through Its Many Voices and Many Sides.  The book looks at the death penalty through interviews with people affected by the system in different ways. "We must," Bohm writes, "begin to understand the reach of capital punishment beyond just the victim and the perpetrator." To that end, he includes perspectives from investigators, prosecutors, prison wardens, victims' and offenders' families, judges, and attorneys. The book uses interviews to explore issues of deterrence, retribution, and fairness, while taking a unique look at how the death penalty affects those who participate in the system. In conclusion, Bohm suggests that capital punishment's collateral damage is another reason for reconsidering the wisdom of this ultimate sanction.

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BOOKS: "Make Me Believe: A Crime Novel Based on Real Events"

A new novel by Dax-Devlon Ross, Make Me Believe: A Crime Novel Based on Real Events, follows the discoveries and dangerous encounters of a fictional author investigating the case of Toronto Patterson, the last juvenile defendant executed in Texas before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down this practice in 2005. Employing actual interviews with Patterson, court documents, news articles and courtroom testimony, Ross's book blends fact and fiction to confront some of the problems of capital punishment in Texas while providing a fascinating story.  Dax-Devlon Ross is a lawyer and writer of nonfiction, fiction and poetry.

(D. Ross, "Make Me Believe: A Crime Novel Based on Real Events," Outside the Box Publishing, 2011). 

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BOOKS: "Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned"

A new biography of Clarence Darrow by John A. Farrell chronicles the life of this famous American lawyer, known for his eloquence in defending unpopular clients and in securing reprieves for those condemned to death. He won life sentences for Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, whose crimes of kidnapping and murder had garnered national attention. He often spoke publicly about his opposition to capital punishment.  Darrow had many famous clients during his career, including union leader Eugene Debs in the Pullman strike case, and John Scopes in the famous "Monkey Trial" regarding the teaching of evolution, where he argued against Willam Jennings Bryan. 

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BOOKS: Former Wall St. Lawyer Now Focuses on Death Row Inmates

Dale Recinella formerly worked as an attorney on large financial deals, including the building of a National Football League stadium. He also supported the death penalty.  But he now focuses on the needs of death row inmates and other prisoners in Florida.  His new book, entitled “Now I Walk on Death Row,” tells of his career transition and the reversal in his views on capital punishment.  Although he attributes his changes to his Catholic religious faith, he also came to see the practical problems with the death penalty: "All the studies show that life in prison without the possibility of parole is much cheaper than getting to an execution. The difference is who the money goes to. With life in prison, the money goes to corrections officers. With the death penalty, the money goes to lawyers on both sides. Correction officers' uniforms are much cheaper than Brooks Brother suits," he said.  As a volunteer chaplain, Recinella ministers on death row three days a week and gives religious education instruction at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida.

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NEW RESOURCE: "Legacy of Violence"

"Legacy of Violence: Lynch Mobs and Executions in Minnesota," a book by John D. Bessler (University of Minnesota Press, 2003), examines the history of illegal and state-sanctioned executions in Minnesota, one of twelve states that currently does not have the death penalty. The book is timely in that the current governor, Tim Pawlenty, has proposed reinstating the death penalty, which was abolished in 1911. The book includes detailed personal accounts from those who were involved in the events, as well as a history of Minnesota's anti-execution and anti-lynching movements, a review of historical wrongful convictions, and an analysis of the role that the media played in the death penalty debate. The author recounts the details of the largest mass execution in the U.S. of 38 Native Americans in Mankato in 1862 at the order of President Lincoln, and the brutal lynching in Duluth of 3 African-Americans accused of rape.

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BOOKS: "Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States"

A new book, “Queer (In)Justice” by Joey Mogul, Andrea Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock, explores the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in America’s criminal justice system, and particularly their interaction with the death penalty system. The authors assert that prosecutors have used defendants' sexual orientation or gender-nonconforming appearance to obtain capital convictions: “In capital cases a prosecutor must successfully undertake what should be a morally difficult, ethically complex task of convincing a jury or judge to kill another human being. To succeed, the prosecution must demonize, dehumanize and ‘other’ the defendant . . . the process of dehumanization required to obtain a death sentence is easier when the defendant is of a different race, class, sexual orientation and/or gender identity than the jurors or judge.” The authors also underscore the risk of juror bias, “Queer people . . . are also tried before juries comprised primarily of heterosexual, gender-conforming people, whose members often have beliefs that LGBT people are deviant and immoral... [P]rosecutors’ use of queer criminal archetypes alone or in combination with others rooted in race and class often has deadly consequences.”

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