4th Edition

An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Capital Punishment in the United States


DeathQuest: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Capital Punishment in the United States, Fourth Edition, provides a comprehensive discussion of the issues surrounding the death penalty in the United States. Arguments for and against capital punishment are examined. The book begins by tracing the history of the death penalty in the United States, from the colonial period to modern times (1608 until the mid-1960s). It reviews landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that shaped the practice of capital punishment. Also discussed are methods of execution; the issue of general deterrence; incapacitation and economic costs of capital punishment; miscarriages of justice in capital cases; arbitrariness and discrimination in the administration of the death penalty; and retribution and religion in relation to the death penalty. The book concludes with a discussion of American death penalty opinion. It covers the history of death penalty opinion; research on the hypothesis that support for the death penalty is largely a product of ignorance about capital punishment; and the future of American death penalty opinions and their potential impact on the use of capital punishment in the United States.

Key Features

  • Comprehensive, unbiased review of developments in death penalty law and procedure, including new case law on death-eligible crimes and execution by lethal injection
  • Current data on costs, miscarriages of justice, discriminatory application, religion, and death penalty public opinion
  • Analysis of new research regarding the effectiveness of the death penalty in terms of deterrence, retribution, and incapacitation


Criminal justice undergraduate and graduate students, as well as social science and law students

Table of Contents

Foreword Acknowledgments About the Author Introduction Chapter 1 History of the Death Penalty in the United States: The Premodern Period The Death Penalty in Colonial Times Death Penalty Laws Executions and Saving Souls The Death Penalty Imposed Death Penalty Abolitionists The Death Penalty in the Nineteenth Century Hiding Executions from the Public From Mandatory to Discretionary Capital Punishment Statutes States Abolish the Death Penalty From Locally Authorized to State-Authorized Executions The Death Penalty in the First Half of the Twentieth Century States Abolish and Reinstate the Death Penalty The Death Penalty from 1950 to the Mid-1960s The Case of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg The Case of Caryl Chessman Conclusion Discussion Questions Notes Chapter 2 Capital Punishment and the Supreme Court: The Premodern Period Judicial Review and the Regulation of Capital Punishment Premodern Death Penalty Cases Clemency Jurisdiction Methods of Execution Ex Post Facto Sentencing The Fifth Amendment (Double Jeopardy) Juries The Fourteenth Amendment (Equal Protection and Due Process) Conclusion Discussion Questions Notes Chapter 3 The Challenge to Capital Punishment’s Legality The Challenge Begins The Rudolph Case The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Lawyers The Maxwell Case United States v. Jackson and Witherspoon v. Illinois Boykin v. Alabama McGautha v. California and Crampton v. Ohio Aikens, Branch, Furman, and Jackson Furman v. Georgia Woodson v. North Carolina and Gregg v. Georgia Aggravating Versus Mitigating Death Penalty Statutes Aggravating-Only Death Penalty Statutes Structured Discretion S


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© 2012
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