Sobered by mounting evidence of wrongful convictions in capital cases, both death penalty advocates and abolitionists are calling for a moratorium on executions in the United States. This timely book delves into the difficult questions surrounding the heated public and legal debate about a criminal justice system that risks the state-sanctioned killing of an innocent person.
Focusing on executive clemency petitions, the final hope for death row inmates, Cathleen Burnett exposes troubling flaws in the legal process of administering the death penalty. Her in-depth examination of all of the fifty petitions presented to the governors of Missouri since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1977, shows in dramatic detail how the machinery of justice often fails the condemned and their victims alike. Skillfully interweaving her investigation with compelling case studies, Burnett considers particular stages in death penalty convictions to illuminate the mistakes and miscarriages of justice commonly addressed in clemency petitions-police misconduct and false testimony; overzealous prosecution; ineffective defense counsel; judicial prejudice; and state and federal appellate reviews that increasingly neglect the protection of individual rights. Burnett also probes the decision-making process in evaluating clemency petitions, showing how political and other persuasive forces, from the media to the Pope, limit a governor's ability to act as a reliable fail-safe to capital punishment.
The powerful stories included here uncover a trail of injustices that will give pause to anyone struggling with the legal and moral dilemmas of the death penalty.