Beyond Repair?

America's Death Penalty

Beyond Repair?

Constitutional Conflicts

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Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: Published: November 2002

Law, Politics > Political Science, Sociology

Can the death penalty be administered in a just way—without executing the innocent, without regard to race, and without arbitrariness? How does capital punishment in the United States fit with international human rights law? These are among the questions that leading legal scholars and journalists explore in Beyond Repair? All new, the essays in this collection focus on the period since 1976, when the Supreme Court held that capital punishment, in and of itself, does not violate the Constitution. In addition to reflecting on the most recent developments in the law, the contributors draw on empirical research to consider connections between newly available data and modern American death penalty procedures.

A number of the essays scrutinize thinking about capital punishment. They examine why, following almost two decades of strong public support for the death penalty, public opinion in favor of it has recently begun to decline. Beyond Repair? presents some of the findings of the Capital Jury Project, a nationwide research initiative that has interviewed over one thousand people who served as jurors in capital trials. It looks at what goes through the minds of jurors asked to consider imposing the death penalty, how qualified they are to make such an important decision, and how well they understand the judge’s instructions. Contributors also investigate the risk of executing the innocent, the role that race plays in determining which defendants are sentenced to death, and the effect of expanded restrictions on access to federal appellate relief. The postscript contemplates the peculiarities of our contemporary system of capital punishment, including the alarming variance in execution rates from state to state.

Filled with current insights and analysis, Beyond Repair? will provide valuable information to attorneys, political scientists, criminologists, and all those wanting to participate knowledgeably in the debates about the death penalty in America.

Ken Armstrong, John H. Blume, Theodore Eisenberg, Phoebe C. Ellsworth, Stephen P. Garvey, Samuel R. Gross, Sheri Lynn Johnson, Steve Mills, William A. Schabas, Larry W. Yackle, Franklin E. Zimring


"Beyond Repair contains a series of fascinating essays by an all-star cast of death penalty researchers and ardent abolitionists. . . . [It] is an important addition to the literature on the new abolitionism . . . showing just how seriously broken the machinery of the death penalty system actually is." — Austin Sarat , Justice System Journal

"The essays are well-written at a level that undergraduate students should find it accessible but are also challenging enough to fit well in a graduate-level course. Although the literature discussing the death penalty is vast, this volume is a useful addition to the discussion."

— Jack E. Call , Law and Politics Book Review

“Important and timely, Beyond Repair? presents disturbing findings about the legal system’s inability to administer the death penalty fairly. Especially noteworthy for the new empirical data it brings to bear, this book presents a necessary—and unsettling—look at capital punishment in America today.” — Nadine Strossen, President, American Civil Liberties Union and Professor of Law, New York Law School

“In these essays some of our most knowledgeable students of capital punishment take a hard, no-nonsense look at how it actually operates and what drives America’s passionate refusal either to come to peace with the death penalty or give it up. Vital reading for whoever would understand why it can function only fitfully, peevishly, and perversely.” — Anthony G. Amsterdam, New York University School of Law

“This collection is an indispensable guide to the new learning on the death penalty, and to the reasons why capital punishment has suddenly become one of the nation's most pressing issues of public policy and debate.” — James S. Liebman, Columbia Law School


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Stephen P. Garvey is Professor of Law at Cornell Law School.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Introduction / Stephen P. Garvey

1 : Second Thoughts: Americans’ Views on the Death Penalty at the Turn of the Century / Samuel R. Gross & Phoebe C. Ellsworth

2 : Capital Punishment, Federal Courts, and the Writ of Habeas Corpus / Larry W. Yackle

3 : “Until I Can Be Sure”: How the Threat of Executing the Innocent Has Transformed the Death Penalty Debate / Ken Armstrong & Steve Mills

4 : Race and Capital Punishment / Sheri Lynn Johnson

5 : Lessons from the Capital Jury Project / John H. Blume, Theodore Eisenberg, & Stephen P. Garvey

6 : International Law and the Abolition of the Death Penalty / William A. Schabas

Postscript: The Peculiar Present of American Capital Punishment / Franklin E. Zimring


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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3043-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2960-2
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