Capital Punishment
by Charles Black, Jr.

A clear statement of the argument that capital punishment, especially in the current US criminal justice system, is prone to caprice and error. He shows that at several steps in the process decisions about who will be subjected to capital punishment are made without any clear standards. The prosecutor decides what crimes to charge and whether to offer a plea bargain. A jury decides the question of guilt or innocence or insanity. A judge or jury decides on the sentence. The automatic appeal goes through the same set of mistakes. Poor people can't afford lawyers and investigators who could help them avoid conviction. Governors can pardon or commute the sentence or not without giving reasons.

Many of the points he makes are valid for punishment in general, not only capital punishment. He acknowledges this, but limits his conclusions to capital punishment, which he shows is special in several ways.

Year Read: 1985

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