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Debating the Death Penalty

Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts on Both Sides Make Their Best Case

Edited by Hugo Adam Bedau and Paul G. Cassell

Publication Date - 05 February 2004

ISBN: 9780195169836

256 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

An illuminating, even-handed look at one of the most troubling issues confronting our society


When news breaks that a convicted murderer, released from prison, has killed again, or that an innocent person has escaped the death chamber in light of new DNA evidence, arguments about capital punishment inevitably heat up. Few controversies continue to stir as much emotion as this one, and public confusion is often the result.
This volume brings together seven experts--judges, lawyers, prosecutors, and philosophers--to debate the death penalty in a spirit of open inquiry and civil discussion. Here, as the contributors present their reasons for or against capital punishment, the multiple facets of the issue are revealed in clear and thought-provoking detail. Is the death penalty a viable deterrent to future crimes? Does the imposition of lesser penalties, such as life imprisonment, truly serve justice in cases of the worst offences? Does the legal system discriminate against poor or minority defendants? Is the possibility of executing innocent persons sufficient grounds for abolition?
In confronting such questions and making their arguments, the contributors marshal an impressive array of evidence, both statistical and from their own experiences working on death penalty cases. The book also includes the text of Governor George Ryan's March 2002 speech in which he explained why he had commuted the sentences of all prisoners on Illinois's death row.
By representing the viewpoints of experts who face the vexing questions about capital punishment on a daily basis, Debating the Death Penalty makes a vital contribution to a more nuanced understanding of the moral and legal problems underlying this controversy.

About the Author(s)

Hugo Adam Bedau is Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, at Tufts University and editor of The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies.
Paul Cassell is a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Utah and Professor of Law at the University of Utah College of Law.


"An excellent overview of this life-and-death issue." --Booklist

"The controversies over capital punishment in the United States grow more heated each year, but there is very little discourse by public intellectuals on the meaning and legitimacy of death as a criminal punishment. This collection is an important attempt to fill that gap, to map out the key questions in contention and the evidence available to answer them. It is a civilized and serious examination of a profoundly important fault line in the American legal system." --Franklin E. Zimring, William G. Simon Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley, and author of The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment

"At long last, an intelligent, well-reasoned debate and a much needed balanced discussion of this most serious and vexing issue in our system of criminal justice. Some of the most prominent and outspoken supporters and opponents of capital punishment get to have their say in a thoughtful and reasoned discourse. At least, in this publication, supporters of capital punishment are given equal and appropriate treatment of their views on a subject most often swept under the rug or obscured by emotionalism." --Lynne Abraham, District Attorney of Philadelphia

"Brings fresh energy to an ongoing national conversation. It brings together some of the best thinkers and gets the best out of them. It contains up-to-date commentaries, all of which are lucid, engaging, and provocative. This book will be a singular resource for students of capital punishment for years to come." --Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College

"It is not often that subtlety enters the death penalty debate in America. But Debating the Death Penalty achieves just that by bringing together the views of eight men who have very different ways of thinking about the subject. The book's most unique contribution is the way it reveals the humanity and good faith of those who support the ultimate penalty; as they struggle with the gravity of their own conclusions, they remind us that our compassion and our duties as a civil society must flow toward the victim of crime as well as the accused." --Carla Main, Opinion Page Editor of The National Law Journal