African American Lynching
Death Penalty Unfairness
Executions in America
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History of Death Penalty Practices
How did the
United States come to be the only independent Western democracy still
applying the death penalty today? That's the central question that The
Hangman's Knot addresses. This book is about punishment, politics, and
how they worked together over some 300 years to create a unique history of
death penalty use. Execution is now imposed on so few convicted murderers
(fewer than one percent) that some defense attorneys call it cruel and
unusual punishment. But death is still on the books in 38 of our 50
states.Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Delaware have the highest
rates of execution—between one and two persons per 100,000 general
population—and the first four of these states, because of their large
populations and high rates, accounted for 60 per cent of over 880
executions in the United States from 1977 through 2003.
Equal protection under the law? That's what our Constitution says all
citizens are entitled to—as spelled out in the Fourteenth Amendment,
passed in 1868. But equal protection would be a lot to ask, considering
that our current public attitudes draw on collective violence in the past.
Included are such incidents from the history of death penalty use as the
Salem witch trials (1692) and the San Francisco vigilante "executions" of
the 1850s. The Hangman's Knot demonstrates how out-of-office
cliques and ambitious politicians seized, or used, the power to execute as
a way of intimidating their rivals and the voters who supported these
rivals. Slavery, terrorism by the post-Civil-War Ku Klux Klan, industry's
persecution of organized labor, and Southern white dominance-by-lynching
into the Civil Rights era: all of these depended on enforcement by
Today, the death penalty is not even repression. It has become sheer
tokenism. No evidence shows that it deters murder or has done so
historically. The Hangman's Knot details, with illustrations, true
personal stories, facts, and figures, why half our population clings to
the idea that execution is useful. For whom does it still serve a purpose?
Is the United States entering a fourth era of opposition to the death
penalty? The Hangman's Knot is intended for readers who want to
decide for themselves what to think—and who wonder whether opponents will
succeed today where they failed during three past eras of