BOOKS 2013


Women Who Kill Men: California Courts, Gender, and the Press examines the role that gender played in the trials of women accused of murder in California between 1870-1958. The authors trace the changing views of the public towards women and how these views may have affected the outcomes of the cases. Some defendants faced the death penalty and were executed; some were spared. Often the public was deeply fascinated with all aspects of the trial and punishment. The book, written by Gordon Morris Bakken and Brenda Farrington, provides in-depth details of 18 murder trials through court records and news coverage.

 

 

A new book by Kathleen Cairns explores the intriguing story of Barbara Graham, who was executed for murder in California in 1955, and whose case became a touchstone in the ongoing debate over capital punishment. In Proof of Guilt: Barbara Graham and the Politics of Executing Women in America, Cairns examines how different narratives portrayed Graham, with prosecutors describing her as mysterious and seductive, while some of the media emphasized Graham’s abusive and lonely childhood. The book also describes how Graham’s case became crucial to the death-penalty abolitionists of the time, as questions of guilt were used to raise awareness of the arbitrary and capricious nature of the death penalty.Cairns is a lecturer in the Department of History at California Polytechnic State University.  She has also written The Enigma Woman: The Death Sentence of Nellie May Madison (Nebraska, 2007) and Hard Time at Tehachapi: California’s First Women’s Prison.

A new international manual covering psychiatric and psychological issues arising in capital cases has been prepared by a team of forensic psychiatrists for use by attorneys, judges, and mental health officials. The Handbook of Forensic Psychiatric Practice in Capital Cases sets out model structures for psychiatric assessment and report writing for every stage of a death penalty case, from pre-trial to execution. It also discusses ethical issues, particularly with regard to an inmate’s competence to be executed. The handbook is published by The Death Penalty Project (DPP) and Forensic Psychiatry Chambers, both based in England. It is available online or in print from DPP.A new international manual covering psychiatric and psychological issues arising in capital cases has been prepared by a team of forensic psychiatrists for use by attorneys, judges, and mental health officials. The Handbook of Forensic Psychiatric Practice in Capital Cases sets out model structures for psychiatric assessment and report writing for every stage of a death penalty case, from pre-trial to execution. It also discusses ethical issues, particularly with regard to an inmate’s competence to be executed. The handbook is published by The Death Penalty Project (DPP) and Forensic Psychiatry Chambers, both based in England. It is available online or in print from DPP.

The Michigan Committee Against Capital Punishment has published a collection of over 40 years of testimony, brochures, and other information by attorney and death-penalty expert Eugene Wanger. The collection begins with the resolution from Michigan‘s 1962 constitutional convention banning capital punishment in the state. It includes Wanger’s testimony at numerous hearings opposing bills attempting to reinstate the death penalty, as well as brochures and short articles. The bound and boxed volume provides a comprehensive overview of the history of death-penalty legislation in Michigan. Through legislation in 1846, the state became first English-speaking government to abolish the death penalty for murder and lesser crimes.

 

A forthcoming book, Fighting for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys by Susannah Sheffer, explores the impact of the death penalty on defense attorneys with clients on death row. Through interviews with capital defenders, the author examines how attorneys try to cope with the stress of representing clients facing execution. Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, said, “This is an important book. The death penalty’s impact is so much broader than we realize, and these attorneys are affected in ways that even I had not imagined. I am grateful to Susannah Sheffer for bringing these stories to light.” Richard Burr, a prominent capital defense attorney, called the book “a beautiful, heartbreaking, and above all uplifting story that makes an essential contribution to literature on the death penalty.” The book is available through Amazon and other outlets.

A new book by Professor Robert Bohm of the University of Central Florida examines the personal impact of capital punishment on those involved in the criminal justice system, beyond the victim and perpetrator of the crime. Bohm listened to those involved in all steps of the judicial process, including investigators, jurors, and the execution team. He has probed the effects of the death penalty on the families of both the murder victim and the offender. The book, Capital Punishment’s Collateral Damage, includes testimonials from members of each group, “allowing the participants…to describe in their own words their role in the process and, especially, its effects on them.” Bohm concludes that this “collateral damage is another good argument for rethinking the wisdom of the ultimate sanction.”

 

A new book, “Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty,” offers a comprehensive discussion of Catholic teaching on capital punishment. It explores a wide range of issues related to the death penalty, including racism, mental illness, and economic disparities. The book is edited by Trudy Conway and David Matzko McCarthy, both professors at Mount St. Mary’s University, and Vicki Schieber–the mother of a murder victim. It includes a foreword by Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking. Joseph A. Fiorenza, Archbishop Emeritus of Galveston-Houston, said the book “is a treasure trove of information on the necessity and urgency to abolish an antiquated approach to capital crimes.”

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