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Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty Paperback – Aug 1 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (Aug. 1 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031242373X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312423735
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 281 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #704,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Turow brings his experience as a practicing attorney to this thoughtful meditation on the nature, peril and efficacy of the death penalty. His tone is human and warm, but devoid of drama-he uses no character voices, save for a brief moment when he effectively emulates the words of an elderly Jewish man, who offers a warning about what can go wrong when a government exerts force against its own people. Much of the book deals with Turow's time spent on a commission organized to look into the death penalty machinery in Illinois and offer suggestions for improvement. He also relates his visit to a "Super-Max" prison where the "worst of the worst" are kept; these passages are chilling, as are his clinical descriptions of the crimes committed by the death row inmates. Turow gives both pro and con arguments equal consideration, keeping his own feelings ambiguous until the end, when he reveals his opinion that the death penalty should be repealed. The early chapters may confuse listeners, as they contain a cavalcade of names, but even so, this is a provocative, worthwhile listen, one that explores all the usual questions about capital punishment while raising new ones.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Popular legal-fiction writer Turow takes on the divisive topic of the death penalty in this concise, thoughtful essay. A self-proclaimed "death penalty agnostic," Turow didn't consider himself an expert on the issue even during his years as a prosecutor or when he helped in the defense of some high-profile capital cases. Nonetheless, in early 2000, after Illinois governor George Ryan declared a moratorium on further executions, Turow was appointed to a 14-member blue-ribbon commission charged with helping reform the state's capital punishment system. Ryan's groundbreaking moratorium began a wave of similar actions nationwide as more and more guilty convictions were questioned, whether via new DNA evidence or an overzealous prosecutorial machine (in two key cases in Illinois, a little of both). Turow traces the recent history of the death penalty through his own experiences, and though he was ambivalent about it at the start, he comes away with definite convictions. This is not a scientific study, Turow admits, but he does supply ample notes to back up many of the claims he makes throughout the book. Also included is the commission's report as submitted to Governor Ryan. Together with Mark Fuhrman's more procedural study, Death and Justice [BKL Jl 03], Turow's reflections will spark further discussions on this troublesome issue. Mary Frances Wilkens
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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ON FEBRUARY 3, 1984, a young woman named Michelle Thompson and a male friend, Rene Valentine, were forced at gunpoint from the car they'd just entered in a parking lot outside D. Laney's, a nightclub in Gurnee, Illinois, north of Chicago. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Heard ULTIMATE PUNISHMENT, written and read by novelist Scott
Turow . . . it is a sobering, nonfiction account of Turow's service on the Illinois commission that investigated the administration of the death penalty and influenced Governor George Ryan's unprecedented commutation of the sentences of 164 death row inmates on his last day in office.
I remember in 2003 when I read about the above how I wondered,
"What gives?" . . . although not a strong supporter of the death
penalty (then), I still believed that it did serve a useful purpose in certain instances--and it was a definite deterrent to future crimes of a heinous nature.
Now, after reading Turow's latest effort, I'm not at all sure . . . I've become convinced that there are serious flaws in the criminal justice system . . . furthermore, I realize now that too many innocent people have been wrongly convicted of murder with race or lack of income often being the only reason this happens.
The author provides many examples, supporting his analysis
of the issue . . . this one really struck home: [Chris Thomas is]
"condemned to die because he is poor and belligerent, while
the likes of the Menendez brothers, who shotgunned their
parents for their millions, or the Unabomber . . . get life."
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Format: Hardcover
If you are like me, you mostly know Scott Turow from his many best-selling legal thrillers, including Reversible Errors which death with a death penalty case. Although his book jackets point out that he is lawyer, I haven't gotten a strong sense of that part of his life since his first book, One-L, in which he described life as a new Harvard Law School student.
In his legal career, Mr. Turow has had some exposure to capital punishment cases both as a prosecutor and as a defendant's attorney. From these experiences, he learned that the law doesn't operate as smoothly as advertised in death penalty cases.
I picked up the book because I had read a little about Illinois Governor George Ryan's commutation of 167 death sentences on the last day of his term in office, and wanted to know more about how they came about. The book more than fulfilled my interest, because Mr. Turow was a member of a commission looking into reforming the application of the death penalty for Governor Ryan. The findings of that commission and the subsequent foot dragging by the legislature caused Governor Ryan to act.
Although I have been opposed to the death penalty for as long as I can remember, I was shocked to find out how poorly the sentence had been applied in Illinois. Prosecutors overlooked police torture to obtain confessions, judges overlooked obvious procedural errors, defense attorneys were expected to defend their clients at trial for a total payment of $300, defendants to the same crime often didn't receive the same sentence even when their acts were worse, AND many innocent defendants spent years awaiting death. If you want to understand all the gruesome details, this book provides them in a reasonably dispassionate way.
When he started with the commission, Mr.
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Format: Hardcover
Scott Turow was one of 14 members of a Commission named by the then Governor of Illinois, George Ryan to study and make recommendations on the state's death penalty law. This book is a result of that study. Turow discusses the usual arguments for and against this ultimate penalty. Some of his findings conclusions are expected; others were surprising, at least to me. The usual conclusions are here-- the vast majority of individuals convicted of crimes are guilty. Whether you get the death penalty or not depends on where you live. You are much more likely to get the death penalty in rural areas than in large urban areas. To quote Turow, other factors are ". . . race, gender, geography, who the lawyers and jurors are, and the sheer serendipity of circumstances. . ." Some people are guilty of the crime of having the wrong defense lawyers, and, of course, of being poor. Turow discusses the case of Chris Thomas, a death row inmate, who had been defended by two private attorneys under contract with the local public defender's office that paid them $30,000 per year to defend 103 cases, one of which had to be a capital case. The two attorneys worked together on Thomas' case. One of them had never had any role in a death penalty case; the other had been standby counsel for a defendant, already under a death sentence in Ohio, who had represented himself. The attorneys therefore mounted a six hundred dollar defense for their client. I had always thought that black people are more likely to get the death penalty than whites. Not so, according to Turow; black people just get convicted more. In Illinois 70% of all persons convicted and sentence for first-degree murder are black; their victims have been 60% black.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Famous novelist Scott Turow, an attorney by training, wrote a very sensitive, honest and well-thought out book on capital punishment. As a member of Illinois Capital Punishment Commission he had ample opportunity to think about the pro's and con's of the issue.
His bottom line is this: there are indeed those cases (mostly in the cases of pathological serial killers) that might warrant the death penalty. However, there are so many cases of capital punishment dished out erronously or delivered to those defendants too poor to hire top-notch legal representation, that it does more harm than good in the name of justice.
The pivotal question, as he puts it, "is whether a system of justice can be constructed that reaches only the rare, right cases, without also occasionally condemning the innocent or the undeserving." Capital punishment, in Turow's judgement, does not satify these conditions.
He supports his argument by giving appropriate examples like the case of Chris Thomas who is "condemned to die because he is poor and belligerent, while the likes of the Menendez brothers, who shotgunned their parents for their millions, or the Unabomber ... get life."
Only 115 pages but a very good and seminal read. Highly recommended.
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