IntroductionThe death penalty has been a commonplace in Western civilization for
more than two thousand years. Not until some two centuries ago,
however, was its use and abuse seriously challenged in Italy, France,
and England. Since then capital punishment has been a steady topic
of debate and controversy, in Europe as well as in the United States.
Whether discussing the Nuremberg tribunals of the 1940s in postwar
Germany or the Rosenbergs' trial and execution in the 1950s, arguments over the death penalty continue to reverberate in the halls of
public debate. Today, opponents of execution point to recent cases in
which innocent prisoners—like Rolando Cruz in Illinois in 1995—narrowly escaped being unjustly executed. Supporters of the death penalty
point to terrible crimes—such as the mass murder in Oklahoma City
by Timothy McVeigh also in 1995—that they believe cry out for the
death penalty as the only just punishment.Among many recent events involving the politics of capital punishment, two in particular have received national publicity.
|• ||• In his final days in office early in 2003, Governor George Ryan
of Illinois pardoned four death row prisoners and commuted
to life imprisonment all 163 of the others on the state's death
row. The magnitude of this unprecedented exercise of executive clemency earned the praise of death penalty opponents
and simultaneously created a firestorm of protest. Ryan declared that he was deeply troubled by the flaws in the state's|
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Debating the Death Penalty:Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts on Both Sides Make Their Best Case.
Contributors: Hugo Adam Bedau - Editor, Paul G. Cassell - Editor.
Publisher: Oxford University Press.
Place of publication: New York.
Publication year: 2004.
Page number: vii.
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