Cover image for Ultimate punishment : a lawyer's reflections on dealing with the death penalty
Title:
Ultimate punishment : a lawyer's reflections on dealing with the death penalty
Author:
Turow, Scott.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
164 pages ; 20 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780374128739
Format :
Book

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KF9227.C2 T87 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

America's leading writer about the law takes a close, incisive look at one of society's most vexing legal issues

Scott Turow is known to millions as the author of peerless novels about the troubling regions of experience where law and reality intersect. In "real life," as a respected criminal lawyer, he has been involved with the death penalty for more than a decade, including successfully representing two different men convicted in death-penalty prosecutions. In this vivid account of how his views on the death penalty have evolved, Turow describes his own experiences with capital punishment from his days as an impassioned young prosecutor to his recent service on the Illinois commission which investigated the administration of the death penalty and influenced Governor George Ryan's unprecedented commutation of the sentences of 164 death row inmates on his last day in office. Along the way, he provides a brief history of America's ambivalent relationship with the ultimate punishment, analyzes the potent reasons for and against it, including the role of the victims' survivors, and tells the powerful stories behind the statistics, as he moves from the Governor's Mansion to Illinois' state-of-the art 'super-max' prison and the execution chamber.

This gripping, clear-sighted, necessary examination of the principles, the personalities, and the politics of a fundamental dilemma of our democracy has all the drama and intellectual substance of Turow's celebrated fiction.


Author Notes

Scott Turow is a writer and lawyer. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 12, 1949. He received a B.A. from Amherst College in 1970 and an M.A. from Stanford University in 1974. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978. He was an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago and served as a prosecutor in several corruption cases. Turow continues to work as an attorney.

He has written numerous novels including Presumed Innocent, The Burden of Proof, Pleading Guilty, The Laws of Our Fathers, Personal Injuries, Ordinary Heroes, Limitations, Innocent, and Identical. His non-fiction works include One L about his experience as a law student and Ultimate Punishment about the death penalty. He has won numerous awards including the Heartland Prize in 2003 for Reversible Errors, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 2004 for Ultimate Punishment, and Time Magazine's Best Work of Fiction, 1999 for Personal Injuries. He will give a keynote speech at the National writer's Congress 2015.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Popular legal-fiction writer Turow takes on the divisive topic of the death penalty in this concise, thoughtful essay. A self-proclaimed death penalty agnostic, Turow didn't consider himself an expert on the issue even during his years as a prosecutor or when he helped in the defense of some high-profile capital cases. Nonetheless, in early 2000, after Illinois governor George Ryan declared a moratorium on further executions, Turow was appointed to a 14-member blue-ribbon commission charged with helping reform the state's capital punishment system. Ryan's groundbreaking moratorium began a wave of similar actions nationwide as more and more guilty convictions were questioned, whether via new DNA evidence or an overzealous prosecutorial machine (in two key cases in Illinois, a little of both). Turow traces the recent history of the death penalty through his own experiences, and though he was ambivalent about it at the start, he comes away with definite convictions. This is not a scientific study, Turow admits, but he does supply ample notes to back up many of the claims he makes throughout the book. Also included is the commission's report as submitted to Governor Ryan. Together with Mark Fuhrman's more procedural study, Death andustice BKLl 03, Turow's reflections will spark further discussions on this troublesome issue. --Mary Frances Wilkens Copyright 2003 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Is there anything new to say about whether the death penalty should be abolished? It turns out there is. Bestselling author Turow (Reversible Errors) has some useful insights into this fiercely debated subject, based on his experiences as a prosecutor and, in his postprosecutorial years, working on behalf of death-row inmates, and his two years on Illinois's Commission on Capital Punishment, charged by the former Gov. George Ryan with examining how the death penalty might be more fairly administered. This is a sober and elegantly concise examination of a complex, fraught topic by an admitted "agnostic." His views veering one way and then the other, Turow shares his back-and-forth reasoning as he carefully discusses each issue, from the possible execution of an innocent person (a serious danger) to whether execution is a deterrent (it's not). Perhaps most illuminating are Turow's thoughts on victims' rights (which he says must be weighed against the needs of the community); on what to do with "the worst of the worst" (he visits a maximum security prison to meet multiple-murderer Henry Brison, who, Turow says, "most closely resembles... Hannibal Lecter"); and the question of what he calls "moral proportion," the notion that execution is meant to restore moral balance, which, he says, requires an "unfailingly accurate" system of justice. This measured weighing of the facts will be most valuable to those who, like Turow, are on the fence-they will find an invaluable, objective look at both sides of this critical but highly charged debate. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Former federal prosecutor, death penalty appellate lawyer, and best-selling novelist Turow (Presumed Innocent) provides a thoughtful account of the evolution of his views on the death penalty. Most of the book describes Turow's service on Illinois Governor Ryan's Commission on Capital Punishment (whose report ultimately convinced the governor to commute the sentences of some 164 death row inmates on leaving office), and Turow does an excellent job of describing how he wrestled with the arguments for and against the death penalty. The hallmark of the book is Turow's visit to the Tamms Prison, Illinois's super-max facility, and serial murderer Henry Brisbon, "Illinois' poster child for the death penalty." By clearly and methodically sorting through the issues regarding the ultimate punishment, Turow has performed a public service. By turns shocking and engrossing, this book is highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/03.]-Harry Charles, Attorney at Law, St. Louis, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Ultimate Punishmentp. 3
Preamble to the Report of the Illinois Governor's Commission on Capital Punishment, April 2002p. 119
Notesp. 127
Acknowledgmentsp. 165