on June 25, 2009
A small number of books encapsulate the contemporary issues surrounding the death penalty and this is one of the best. The first three chapters look at the development of the death penalty in America from earliest practice to the present and this is critical to understanding how we arrived at the oddly random system we have today. Section Two provides a concise constitutional history and an introduction to death penalty jurisprudence that is clear and simple enough for the layman but detailed and factual enough for the specialist. In Section Three, problems attendant to the administration of the death penalty are introduced including racial disparities, the problem of actual innocence and a series of case studies that highlight these issues. The final chapter looks at the future of the death penalty in broader context of international law and public opinion.
Death penalty issues have been moving very quickly for the past decade and I hope that the authors update this edition soon to incorporate the latest developments in the various states and the new prominence of cost issues for state legislatures. Death penalty commissions in a number of states have recommended abolition or substantial amendments to existing practice. Studies in the past few years by public and private entities have underlined the cost of the death penalty versus life without parole during a time when states are having difficulties making ends meet.
That said, this book is a very important one for students of the death penalty today.