The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment by Franklin E. Zimring

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Synopsis

Why does the United States continue to employ the death penalty when fifty other developed democracies have abolished it? Why does capital punishment become more problematic each year? How can the death penalty conflict be resolved?
In The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment, Frank Zimring reveals that the seemingly insoluble turmoil surrounding the death penalty reflects a deep and long-standing division in American values, a division that he predicts will soon bring about the end of capital punishment in our country. On the one hand, execution would seem to violate our nation's highest legal principles of fairness and due process. It sets us increasingly apart from our allies and indeed is regarded by European nations as a barbaric and particularly egregious form of American exceptionalism. On the other hand, the death penalty represents a deeply held American belief in violent social justice that sees the hangman as an agent of local control and safeguard of community values. Zimring uncovers the most troubling symptom of this attraction to vigilante justice in the lynch mob. He shows that the great majority of executions in recent decades have occurred in precisely those Southern states where lynchings were most common a hundred years ago. It is this legacy, Zimring suggests, that constitutes both the distinctive appeal of the death penalty in the United States and one of the most compelling reasons for abolishing it.
Impeccably researched and engagingly written, Contradictions in American Capital Punishment casts a clear new light on America's long and troubled embrace of the death penalty.
 

About Franklin E. Zimring

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Published November 18, 2004 by Oxford University Press, USA. 272 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, Crime, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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But not every state uses capital punishment as the ultimate payback for crime, and while some states (e.g., New Hampshire, New Jersey, and South Dakota) keep the possibility of it on the books, it is only rarely applied outside the American South.

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The final chapters of The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment, in which Zimring turns to the death penalty "end game" in America, are perhaps the only weak parts in an otherwise excellent book.

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