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Capital Punishment on Trial


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About the Author

David M. Oshinsky is Distinguished Teaching Professor and holder of the Jack S. Blanton Chair in History at the University of Texas and the Jacob K. Javits Visiting Professor at New York University. His other books include Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice, winner of the 1997 Robert F. Kennedy Book Prize; and A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy, winner of the D.B. Hardeman Prize.


"Oshinsky tells a compelling story while putting that story in its full context. His book is both a gripping account of Furman v. Georgia and a complete survey of the American experience with the death penalty over the past half century." Stuart Banner, author of The Death Penalty: An American History "A meticulously researched and elegantly written account by a masterful storyteller. Oshinsky uses this landmark case as a lens through which to view America's long history of state killing.... Filled with striking insights." Austin Sarat, author of When the State Kills: Capital Punishment and the American Condition"

Oshinsky, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, here summarizes the tangled web of legal arguments for and against the death penalty. He focuses on the brief period during the 1970s when the U.S. Supreme Court banned it, how the prohibition occurred, and how it suddenly ended. The author details the appeal of William Henry Furman and how a deeply divided Supreme Court concluded that a process so pervasively riddled with discrimination and arbitrary standards violated the Eighth and Fourteenth amendments. Oshinsky concludes that it was exactly this 1972 determination that precipitated the reinstatement of the death penalty four years later. Oshinsky claims that the Supreme Court is bitterly divided over the concept, as justices continue to struggle with the legal implications of a process that attempts to impose uniform standards and guidelines while pursuing what he believes to be an arbitrary formula for death. He argues that the issue is far from settled, as the current system is racially biased, weighted against the poor, marred by substandard defense attorneys, expensive to maintain, and subject to intolerable error. Verdict Aimed at an academic audience, this is recommended for college, university, and law libraries.-Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Law Lib., New York Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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