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Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America's Death Penalty Hardcover – April 30, 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Sarat is mostly sucessful in navigating these dangerous waters of describing the gruesomeness of botched executions without making them just a spectacle or systematic failure of people or equipment. His success is a result of balancing accounts from a variety of sources, situating his work in the social sciences and legal studies."— David Fazzino, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania


"America has no more incisive scholar of capital punishment than Austin Sarat, who always has something fresh to say. Gruesome Spectacles offers readers new and provocative insights."—Scott Turow, author of Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty


"Austin Sarat's spellbinding book has captured the spirit of his agile mind. Gruesome Spectacles is provocatively written and sure to keep readers keenly interested in the captivating stories of many death row prisoners. This book will hook you from the first chapter and continue to fascinate you throughout its journey. A must-read."—Charles Ogletree, author of All Deliberate Speed and The Presumption of Guilt


"We have harnessed the power to annihilate life on earth. Yet we still can't seem to extinguish, quickly, painlessly, and reliability, a single human life. Gruesome Spectacles tells us why. With his bright, clear, and extra-ordinary prose, Austin Sarat raises many disturbing and profound questions—not only about botched executions—but about State authorized killings made on behalf of the American people. A gripping and provocative read."—Richard Moran, Mount Holyoke College

About the Author

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College. Sarat has written for numerous academic and trade publications, and his books include: When the State Kills (2001), Mercy on Trial (2005) and Re-imagining To Kill a Mockingbird (2013).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford Law Books (April 30, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804789169
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804789165
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #562,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Intriguing historical accounts provide the context for current events - a great choice for everyone wishing to be well informed. This is a timely text that manages to remain neutral on a controversial topic while still providing plenty of very readable content. Whatever your stance on the death penalty, this is a must read.
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By J.M. on May 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Publication of this thought-provoking and challenging account could not have been timelier given the recent headlines reporting the “horrific” execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma. The book questions the legitimacy of capital punishment in the United States given a 3 to 7 percent rate of gruesomely botched executions. It carefully records the various complications experienced with executions whether by hanging, electrocution, gas or lethal injection, and emphasizes that botched executions have accompanies each supposed technological “enhancement” to method. Anyone contemplating the future of the death penalty in our changing times should read Sarat’s book and ask themselves if it is ever acceptable for a society to risk the gruesome spectacle of a botched execution.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
No book can adequately express the horror of state sanctioned killing. This book tries but pictures are worth a 1000 words and for the squeamish there are none. What is here is a fascinating and scholarly approach to our barbaric customs and rituals.

The author explains that the rituals are of recent origin starting in the middle of the 19th Century. The middle class was first coming in to its own and sought to demonstrate a moral superiority over the lower classes by distinguishing themselves from the "common mob". To appeal to this set of voters Governments began experimenting with more "painless" methods of killing (none work). Other cosmetic touches including doing away with "public" executions, forbidding pictures or any other method of recording the barbarity and putting the killing behind prison walls were all designed to take the "heat off the official killers, and turn the scrutiny, not on the killing itself but rather on the process, the crime details and the imagined "retributive" benefits when an execution takes place.

As Mr. Sarat and his team of researchers show the State has a stake (pardon the expression) in these sanctified killings. Politicians fall over each other to show that they are "tough" on crime and criminals.But the key question that Sarat and his team wanted answered was whether an execution benefitted the penalty proponents or their opposition. Until we end state sanctioned killing the question wii remain unanswered.
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Format: Hardcover
A vivid and unsparing history of the Death Penalty told in blood and burnt flesh. And while you can't miss the scream for abolition silently building behind its dispassionate surface, Sarat and his co-authors are after something more ambitious - an examination of how our culture struggles to maintain a coherent understanding of itself, how it tortures language and constructs specious conceptions of pain to avoid facing the fundamental incompatibility of the Constitution's prohibition of state cruelty and the business of state killing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book raises some really important questions about the death penalty and its meaning in a civilized first world country. Sarat draws from historical cases and philosophical texts on power, justice, and sovereignty to problematize the moral and ethical conditions for the state killing its own. In presenting these cases, Sarat does a fair job of trying to remain objective and fair, though the questions he asks somewhat allude to his position--a position I personally agree with. This book is clearly written and accessible without compromising the complexity of the issues being addressed. A delightful read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although a bit dry in some instances, descriptions of botched executions and desperate prisoners literally fighting their captives to stave off their deaths were at once chilling and sobering. This text also did a fair job of detailing the miserable childhoods and legal troubles of those who succumbed. Reading about a prisoner's violent crimes and seeing his mugshot on TV or in the paper elicits little sympathy for the pains they suffered during their executions, but reading accounts of some of the condemneds' abuse (including one man who suffered such severe brain damage after shooting both a policeman and himself in their head, whereupon he suffered severe mental breakdown and could not have comprehended either why he was in jail or why he would be executed) was an low-power....to say the least.
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