Who Owns Death? Capital Punishment, the American Conscience, and the End of the Death Penalty

Robert Jay Lifton, Author, Greg Mitchell, Author, Greg Mitchell, Joint Author William Morrow & Company $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-380-97498-6
In their preface, the authors write that they want to ""understand the reasons for America's unyielding support for executions."" But don't be fooled: this is a subtle, provocative argument against the death penalty. Lifton and Mitchell, longtime opponents of capital punishment, trace the history of the issue back to the Greeks--inexplicably ignoring the penalty's biblical roots. The bulk of the book, however, delves into capital punishment today. Lifton and Mitchell argue that, in the U.S., one of the few Western industrialized countries to still practice the death penalty, this willingness for the state to execute its citizens derives from a deep-seated violent core of American history beginning with the American Revolution. Today, they say, the death penalty both feeds into a ""pornography of violence"" and fulfills our desire to eradicate evil. Relying heavily on case studies, the authors probe what they see as the corrosive effect of the death penalty on prison wardens and chaplains, as well as on the governors who often make the final decisions on whether a convicted criminal will die. Given what they report, the authors' optimism that the death penalty may be on the way out appears forced. But both opponents and supporters of the death penalty will find themselves enriched by this book. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-380-79246-7
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