The Death Penalty by Stuart Banner
An American History

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The death penalty arouses our passions as does few other issues. Some view taking another person's life as just and reasonable punishment while others see it as an inhumane and barbaric act. But the intensity of feeling that capital punishment provokes often obscures its long and varied history in this country.

Now, for the first time, we have a comprehensive history of the death penalty in the United States. Law professor Stuart Banner tells the story of how, over four centuries, dramatic changes have taken place in the ways capital punishment has been administered and experienced. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the penalty was standard for a laundry list of crimes--from adultery to murder, from arson to stealing horses. Hangings were public events, staged before audiences numbering in the thousands, attended by women and men, young and old, black and white alike. Early on, the gruesome spectacle had explicitly religious purposes--an event replete with sermons, confessions, and last minute penitence--to promote the salvation of both the condemned and the crowd. Through the nineteenth century, the execution became desacralized, increasingly secular and private, in response to changing mores. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, ironically, as it has become a quiet, sanitary, technological procedure, the death penalty is as divisive as ever.

By recreating what it was like to be the condemned, the executioner, and the spectator, Banner moves beyond the debates, to give us an unprecedented understanding of capital punishment's many meanings. As nearly four thousand inmates are now on death row, and almost one hundred are currently being executed each year, the furious debate is unlikely to diminish. The Death Penalty is invaluable in understanding the American way of the ultimate punishment.


About Stuart Banner

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Stuart Banner is Norman Abrams Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Published March 31, 2003 by Harvard University Press. 408 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Law & Philosophy, Crime. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Death Penalty

Publishers Weekly

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In this well-researched and clear account, Washington University law professor Banner charts how and why this country went from having one of the world's mildest punitive systems to one of its

Mar 04 2002 | Read Full Review of The Death Penalty: An America...

Publishers Weekly

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(12 halftones, not seen) (Mar.)Forecast:If booksellers shelve this with the recently reissued Legal Lynching by Jesse Jackson Sr.

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ABC Perth

And I would review Austlii for the success rates of appeals re sentencing by judges (spoiler alert: it's low).It it a commonly accepted fact in legal academia that mandatory sentencing results in overly excessive sentences based on the facts, and undermines the separation of powers - telling judg...

Oct 01 2014 | Read Full Review of The Death Penalty: An America...

Racism Review

If Georgia ends up exonerating Davis, it wouldn’t be the first time that state later recanted it’s prosecution of an African American accused of killing a white person, but it may take awhile.

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