Opponents of capital punishment may be familiar with arguments about its expense, unjust application and inefficacy as a deterrent. But it is another thing entirely to read about patently biased judges, policemen who lie under oath (and may well have planted evidence) and bloodthirsty prosecutors.In telling Mr Elmore’s story, Mr [Raymond] Bonner [the author of Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong] deftly weaves in a brief history of American capital punishment and its discontents. Following a brief moratorium in 1972, when the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty’s application violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, it was reinstated in 38 states from 1976. By 2010, 1,226 more executions had taken place, 1,010 of them in the South. Most of these executed inmates have been black; a vast majority of the victims in capital cases were white. But Mr Bonner’s book is not a treatise against the death penalty. Rather, it is a dismal look at what happens in America’s justice system when justice is absent.
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