Summary: In recent decades, the death penalty has aroused a national debate so fierce and so divisive it would be hard to find any American without a strong, and often emotionally charged, opinion on the subject. As media coverage of violent crimes increases and TV cameras move into the courtroom, our awareness of capital offenses--how they are prosecuted and sentenced--has been heightened, if not necessarily deepened. Solid information about the larger legal, moral, and prac ...show moretical issues raised by the death penalty remain difficult to find, existing mainly in scholarly journals, law reviews, and government documents. But crucial questions--Is the death penalty an effective deterrent? Are the innocent ever wrongly convicted and executed? Is the death penalty administered in a racially biased manner?--require informed consideration rather than emotional reaction.
In The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies, Hugo Adam Bedau, one of our preeminent scholars on the subject, provides a comprehensive sourcebook on the death penalty, making the process of informed consideration not only possible but fascinating as well. No mere revision of the third edition of The Death Penalty in America, this volume brings together an entirely new selection of 40 essays and includes updated statistical and research data, recent Supreme Court decisions, and the best current contributions to the debate over capital punishment. From the status of the death penalty worldwide to current attitudes of Americans toward convicted killers, from legal arguments challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty to moral arguments enlisting the New Testament in support of it, from controversies over the role of race and class in the judicial system to proposals to televise executions, Bedau gathers readings that explore all the most compelling aspects of this most compelling issue. Beginning with an overview of the background and application of the death penalty, each chapter focuses on a specific controversy and allows partisans and experts on both sides of disputed questions to speak for themselves. Five Supreme Court decisions, beginning with Furman v. Georgia (1972) and including recent rulings limiting the appeals process for capital offenders, are also excerpted. The final chapter features two spirited debates over the death penalty that bring into play all the issues developed throughout the book.
Essential reading for scholars, activists, policy makers, and general audiences alike, The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies allows readers to participate in one of the liveliest and most crucial debates of our time. For anyone wishing to test or substantiate an opinion on capital punishment, or simply to gain a fuller understanding of it, this collection offers a wealth of information, a wide range of perspectives, and a series of arguments as engaging as they are important.
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