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Amongst one of the most perennially mooted debates, on capital punishment, remain the steadiest, bifurcating scholars, professionals and careerists into proponents on one hand, and opponents on the other. The matter of capital punishment, especially the administration of death sentence has drawn legal practitioners, public administrators, human rights activists, theologians and social workers into the fray, with each party waxing polemical against its annulment or its enforcement. It is against this backdrop that Jesse Jackson, Jesse Jackson Jr. and Bruce Shapiro have made painstaking measures to pen down Legal Lynching: the Death Penalty and America’s Future as a way of making their conscience heard and influence the supposed amelioration of the justice system. This book was written in 2001 and
Death sentence as a form of capital punishment is applicable in the US, though its execution varies by jurisdiction. Practically, death sentence has always been seen as being applicable to aggravated murder, contract killing and felony murder. The origin of death sentence in the US precedes that of the US Constitution, dating back to its preexistence in colonies that were later annexed to America. These laws, having laws originating from their mother countries, continued to effect death penalty in the territories and states they became.
Similarly, the form and methods of execution of death sentence and the nature of crime that warrants the application of death sentence continue to vary. As some jurisdictions have continually tried to extend its applicability, others have moved to suspend death sentencing, while others have outlawed it altogether. In 2009, there were 51 death executions by lethal injection, and one, by electric chair, in the state of Virginia. This signals a slight increase from 2008 which had only 37 death executions.
This book comes out as a collaborative work piece that has been penned down out of the concerted efforts of: Jesse Jackson, a former US presidential candidate and also the founder of the Rainbow Coalition); Jackson Jr., a representative in the US; and a renowned editor, Shapiro, working with Salon.com. These three make an in-depth and extensive pursuit of the legal and non-legal factors that color the administration, existence and reality of death sentence (Jackson, 2001). The proposals of a moratorium as an effort to lead to the temporal screeching of the tradition of death sentence form the initial-most section of this book.
The bureaucratic hurdles that are thrown at the defense lawyers, the incompetence of defense lawyers in the face of the trial, an imperfect legal and problematic justice systems, and blood-thirsty politicos are all factors that are touched on in a comprehensive manner, as a forces that trouble the handing down of death sentence so that the verdicts that are issued out by the judge are always economically and racially skewed are all tackled by the three in this book.
Having carried out objective examinations, and investigations (but not by themselves), the three point out that the penal code would have been fair to all Americans, but it is not, since one in every eight death row prisoners have always been found innocent and that subsequently released, since 1976, when the US Supreme Court legally allowed the resumption of the executions (Jackson, 2001). All these factors serve as evidence that Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro adduce in their argument to underscore their standpoint that more often than not, proofs of innocence timely fail to see the light of the day, leading to needless loss of lives.
Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro meticulously follow through the history of death sentence and also elucidate on the reasons as to why the decade-long moratorium which started in 1967 was quashed, paving way to the renewal of federally mandated executions. These authors in order to increase the weight of their argument for their standpoint divulge on fundamental and valid questions which touch on deterrence theories, simple vengeance and the misrepresentation of scriptures, as factors upon which death sentence squarely and fundamentally rests upon (Jackson, 2001). To sum up their arguments, Shapiro, Jackson and Jackson Jr. opine that, “At the present, death sentence epitomize the institutionalization of death, the bureaucratization of death and the engineering of death.”
It must be noted that the validity of the arguments that Shapiro, Jackson and Jackson Jr. pose along are based on objective and investigative researches which had been carried out by Solotaroff, a renowned journalist. Solotaroff follows behind the scenes, making efforts to interview death sentence executioners. It is on Parchman State Penitentiary in Mississippi that Solotaroff concentrates his efforts. In Parchman State Penitentiary, he specializes on the case of two men: Donald Hacutt and Donald Cabana. A warden who quits his job as a prison warden since he is no longer able to accommodate the gut wrenching circumstances that surround death sentence, Donald Cabana serves as the first interviewee.
Donald Hacutt on the other hand, though appearing enthusiastic about his work, suffers several psychological and physical ailments (Jackson, 2001). Solotorof’s work on Parchman State Penitentiary dares to date back to plantation days, the history of capital punishment in the US and the diverse methods that have always or at one time been used to administer capital punishment; with lethal injections, the electric chair, and gas chambers serving as examples. This brings about the truth in a bare-knuckled form as the executioners’ bravery and the mutilated bodies of the executed death row convicts are given blow by blow descriptions.
The last part of the book deals is a collection crimes and crime scenes. This help the reader as one embroiled in the debate on capital sentence to come up with a balanced overview of the matter at hand, having been presented with the inherently flawed nature of the administration of death sentences and the appalling gravity and nature of crimes that warrant capital sentence.
Selecting the Three Most Important Ideas Presented In the Work Relative to the Position Taken On Capital Punishment (Discussing These Ideas While Providing Support for Why They Are Important)
It is a fact that there are fundamental ideas that are tackled by Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro as a way of reinforcing one’s standpoint on the adoption and maintenance of capital sentence. The three most important ideas are: wrongful executions stemming from problems that characterize the US judicial system; the place of religion and capital punishment; and deterrence theories (Jackson, 2001). Indeed, it is these that form the bulk and the core of Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro’s arguments and researches.