Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science, Amherst College. Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy & Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, & Social Thought, Amherst College.
Now in paperback, the book includes a new preface outlining the latest twists and turns in the death penalty debate, including the recent galvanization of citizens and leaders alike as recent botched executions have unfolded in the press. Sarat argues that unlike in the past, today's botched executions seem less like inexplicable mishaps and more like the latest symptoms of a death penalty machinery in disarray. Gruesome Spectacles traces the historical evolution of methods of execution, from hanging or firing squad to electrocution to gas and lethal injection. Even though each of these technologies was developed to "perfect" state killing by decreasing the chance of a cruel death, an estimated three percent of all American executions went awry in one way or another. Sarat recounts the gripping and truly gruesome stories of some of these deaths—stories obscured by history and to some extent, the popular press.
In a bold attempt to tackle the looming question of how and why the connection between race and the death penalty has been so strong throughout American history, Ogletree and Sarat headline an interdisciplinary cast of experts in reflecting on this disturbing issue. Insightful original essays approach the topic from legal, historical, cultural, and social science perspectives to show the ways that the death penalty is racialized, the places in the death penalty process where race makes a difference, and the ways that meanings of race in the United States are constructed in and through our practices of capital punishment.
From Lynch Mobs to the Killing State not only uncovers the ways that race influences capital punishment, but also attempts to situate the linkage between race and the death penalty in the history of this country, in particular the history of lynching. In its probing examination of how and why the connection between race and the death penalty has been so strong throughout American history, this book forces us to consider how the death penalty gives meaning to race as well as why the racialization of the death penalty is uniquely American.