THE DEATH PENALTY ON TRIAL: Crisis in American Justice

Bill Kurtis, Author, Kate Darnton, Editor, Scott Turow, Introduction by . Public Affairs $25 (192p) ISBN 978-1-58648-169-8

After 30 years as a CBS reporter and producer, Kurtis, who now hosts American Justice on A&E, re-examines his lifelong support of the death penalty, arguing eloquently that the risk of executing the wrong person is too great to let capital punishment stand. His reflections are motivated by the 2003 actions of then governor George Ryan of Illinois, a conservative Republican who commuted the sentences of the state's 164 death row inmates. Ryan's actions followed the exoneration through DNA evidence of 13 death row inmates. Kurtis frames his argument around two trials in which the wrong men were first convicted and then exonerated. Kurtis puts his reportorial skills to work, reconstructing in detail one case involving a brutal rape/murder, and another the stabbing of a mother, her two children and another child. Kurtis uses graphic, deeply disturbing descriptions of these murders as bases for arguing that inconceivable acts of violence can create a visceral sense that the death penalty is justified. Kurtis's refusal to shrink from this reality makes his indictment all the more compelling. This is not a book about abstract notions or legal technicalities; Kurtis examines our criminal justice system and finds it too "rife with the potential for error... to make death its product." Agent, Mort Janklow. (Nov.)

Forecast: For people on the fence about capital punishment, this makes a good companion to Scott Turow's wider-ranging Ultimate Punishment.

Reviewed on: 09/27/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-7867-3403-0
Paperback - 218 pages - 978-1-58648-446-0
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