Capital Punishment, the Inevitability of Caprice and Mistake

By Charle S L. Black Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Introduction

ALTHOUGH quite different and (to the public taste) more sensationally absorbing events have eclipsed the fact, this country is now in the midst of a great moral crisis, a crisis concerning the punishment of death. Though I oppose the death penalty on many grounds, this book deals with just two aspects of the death-penalty problem-the possibility of mistake in the infliction of this penalty and the presence of standardless arbitrariness in its infliction. I shall try to show that these two facets of the problem are in some sense the same or, at least, that they are so indissolubly connected as often to be indistinguishable. Though I hope some enlightenment may be a byproduct, my aim is to persuade you that these two problems-mistake and arbitrariness in death-penalty cases-are not fringe-problems, susceptible to being mopped up by minor refinements in concept and technique, but are at the very heart of the matter and are

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