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Capital Punishment in the United States: A Documentary History

NCJ Number
B Vila, C Morris
Date Published
381 pages
This volume presents 112 documents that cover the political and social aspects of the debate about capital punishment in the United States, grouped into six time periods starting with the colonial era and ending with the 1990s.
The documents include congressional hearings, Supreme Court decisions, position papers, biographical accounts, and news stories. An introduction to the entire collection explains that it is intended for use by readers of varying backgrounds and summarizes the arguments related to religion, moral issues, deterrence, incapacitation, irrevocability, arbitrariness, discrimination, the Constitution, and practical issues. It also reviews State and Federal capital punishment laws and the court system. An explanatory introduction precedes each document to explore how seemingly unrelated social, economic, and political factors have affected public attitudes, legislation, and judicial decisions pertaining to capital punishment. The documents give special attention to the effects of particular events such as the Great Depression and the right movement on attitudes toward capital punishment. List of significant dates in the history of capital punishment, glossary, appended background information on laws, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and numbers of executions, reference notes, and index