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The Death Penalty on Trial: Crisis in American Justice
Synopses & Reviews
In 1972, the Supreme Court declared capital punishment cruel and unusual punishment. This should have effectively eliminated the death penalty. But individual states enacted their own laws and have continued to execute people with undiminished zeal. Back in the 70s, Bill Kurtis, creator of the television phenomenon of true crime investigation--and now host of the popular television series American Justice--supported the death penalty. Kurtis covered the trials of some of the most heinous murderers in America, including cult killer Charles Manson, and he had no qualms seeing his subjects executed. But the ordeal of Ray Krone, a Phoenix postal worker twice convicted of murder and put on death row, only to be freed five years later on irrefutable DNA evidence linking the murder to another man, changed his mind. In this startling book, Kurtis takes the reader on his most remarkable investigative journey yet. Here, we follow trails of wrong decisions. We examine in detail why responsible lawyers, judges and law enforcement personnel all came up with wrong verdicts and sent innocent men to death row. We re-visit the murder scenes, study the evidence, and explore the tactical decisions made before and during trial, which led to wrong conclusions. We see why the new jewel of forensic science, DNA, is revealing more than innocence and guilt, opening a window into the criminal justice system that could touch off a revolution of reform. Ultimately we come to a remarkable conclusion: The possibility for error in our justice system is simply too great to allow the death penalty to stand as our ultimate punishment. Kurtis pinpoints eight main reasons why the wrong people are condemned to death.These include overzealous and dishonest prosecutors; corrupt policemen who beat and coerce confessions out of defendants; poorly paid lawyers who don't offer a competent defense; corrupt expert witnesses; unreliable eye witnesses; bias and incompetent judges; and the testimony of jailhouse informants. Having exposed these glaring flaws in the American justice system, Kurtis makes a dramatic claim; Capital punishment is a crime. It epitomizes all that's wrong with the American judicial system. It must stop. There can be no real justice in America until the death penalty is abolished.
True crime investigative reporter Bill Kurtis tackles his biggest case yet—the death penalty—and shows us why it must be abolished from our justice system
Bill Kurtis, anchor of the wildly popular true-crime TV series Cold Case Files and American Justice, used to support the death penalty. But after observing the machinations of the justice system for thirty years, he came to a stunning realization that changed his life: Capital punishment is wrong. There can be no real justice in America until it is abolished.
In The Death Penalty on Trial, Kurtis takes readers on his most remarkable investigative journey yet. Together, we revisit murder scenes, study the evidence, and explore the tactical decisions made before and during trials that send innocent people to death row. We examine the eight main reasons why the wrong people are condemned to death, including overzealous and dishonest prosecutors, corrupt policemen, unreliable witnesses and expert witnesses, incompetent defense attorneys, bias judges, and jailhouse informants. We see why the new jewel of forensic science, DNA, is revealing more than innocence and guilt, opening a window into the criminal justice system that could touch off a revolution of reform. Ultimately we come to a remarkable conclusion: The possibility for error in our justice system is simply too great to allow the death penalty to stand as our ultimate punishment.
About the Author
Bill Kurtis passed the Kansas Bar in 1966, but instead of practicing law he embarked on a thirty-year career as a correspondent and anchorman with CBS Television. In 1985, he formed his own production company, Kurtis Productions, which produces A and E's award-winning Investigative Reports and television's original forensic series, Cold Case Files. Kurtis also anchors A and E's American Justice. He lives in Chicago and Sedan, Kansas.
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