cover image A Descending Spiral: Exposing the Death Penalty in 12 Essays

A Descending Spiral: Exposing the Death Penalty in 12 Essays

Marc Bookman. New Press, $29.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-62097-654-8

Attorney Bookman, director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, debuts with an incisive and well-documented critique of the death penalty. Spotlighting 12 separate cases, Bookman details prosecutorial misconduct, judicial capriciousness, racial bias, and incompetent defense lawyering. He begins with the case of Beauford White, a Florida man executed for taking part in a 1977 robbery in which six people were killed. Based on testimony that White was shocked by the murders and tried to stop them, the jury unanimously voted for life imprisonment, but the judge overruled their recommendation and sentenced White to death. (Florida has since abolished judicial override in capital cases.) Detailing the case of Andre Thomas, a Black man from Texas who believed God told him to murder his estranged wife, her infant daughter, and his four-year-old son in 2004, and gouged both of his eyes out while in custody, Bookman delves into the legacy of lynching in America and discusses how the justice system is weighted against the mentally ill. With lucid prose and a firm grasp of history and legal precedent, Bookman makes a persuasive argument that these dozen cases are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to death penalty injustices. This is a cogent and harrowing primer on what’s wrong with capital punishment. (May)