It isn’t enough to celebrate the death penalty’s demise. We must learn from it.
When Henry McCollum was condemned to death in 1984 in rural North Carolina, death sentences were commonplace. In 2014, DNA tests set McCollum free. By then, death sentences were as rare as lethal lightning strikes. To most observers this national trend came as a surprise. What changed? Brandon Garrett hand-collected and analyzed national data, looking for causes and implications of this turnaround. End of Its Rope explains what he found, and why the story of who killed the death penalty, and how, can be the catalyst for criminal justice reform.
No single factor put the death penalty on the road to extinction, Garrett concludes. Death row exonerations fostered rising awareness of errors in death penalty cases, at the same time that a decline in murder rates eroded law-and-order arguments. Defense lawyers radically improved how they litigate death cases when given adequate resources. More troubling, many states replaced the death penalty with what amounts to a virtual death sentence—life without possibility of parole. Today, the death penalty hangs on in a few scattered counties where prosecutors cling to entrenched habits and patterns of racial bias.
The failed death penalty experiment teaches us how inept lawyering, overzealous prosecution, race discrimination, wrongful convictions, and excessive punishments undermine the pursuit of justice. Garrett makes a strong closing case for what a future criminal justice system might look like if these injustices were remedied.
In End of Its Rope, Brandon L. Garrett embarks on an epic game of ‘whodunit?,’ using hand-collected data and case studies to identify the factors contributing to the death penalty’s demise.
[A] tremendous book…What is revealed in the text are a host of possible explanations for the steep decline in the use of the death penalty in the United States…Thanks to Garrett’s thoughtful and precise analysis of the decline of the death penalty, we now have the roadmap for true criminal justice reform. Here’s to the hope that policy makers and stakeholders will pick up this superb volume and start the hard work.
Will we ever abolish the American death penalty? Should we? In his carefully researched and engagingly written book, Brandon Garrett argues that we will and we must.
It makes a compelling case that reforms that have helped tame the country’s infatuation with capital punishment are overdue and are urgently needed elsewhere in criminal justice. It is a book that informs, prescribes, and inspires, and it is well worth reading.
For so long, the death penalty has been a national scandal, infected by ingrained racial bias, grossly incompetent lawyers, botched executions, and innocent people sentenced to death. Garrett tells the remarkable story of how this cloud has lifted and points the way towards obtaining justice in the criminal courts.
By digging deep into the data and examining shifts in legal tactics, Brandon Garrett explains why fewer defendants are being sentenced to death and states are carrying out fewer executions. But what makes this book profoundly important is that Garrett also shows how the death penalty’s imminent demise creates the opportunity to reform the U.S. criminal justice system so that it is actually just.
Garrett has written a must-read book for Supreme Court Justices and Americans alike. The story of our broken death penalty points the way to what it will take to overhaul the justice system.
Indispensable reading for an understanding of the dramatic, ongoing changes in the role of capital punishment in American law and culture. Brandon Garrett’s trenchant analyses, drawing heavily on new county-level data, produce insights that will surprise both death-penalty opponents and proponents. Detailed examination of individual cases and meticulous statistical documentation are interwoven in an easy-to-read style equally accessible to non-professional readers and convincing to pros. By carefully tracing the long shadow that capital punishment casts over the criminal justice system, Garrett points the way to reforms which become possible as that shadow is lifted.
By any measure, Brandon Garrett is among the top death-penalty scholars in the U.S. today, and any student of the death penalty needs to know his abundant scholarship.
- Harvard University Press
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