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Cruel and Unusual
The American Death Penalty and the Founders’ Eighth Amendment
John D. Bessler

2012 • 464 pp. 9 illus. 6 1/8 x 9 1/4"
Constitutional Law / Criminology / American Government / Capital Punishment

$29.95 Paperback, 978-1-55553-825-5
$45.00 Hardcover, 978-1-55553-716-6

$24.99 Ebook, 978-1-55553-717-3

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

This indispensable history of the Eighth Amendment and the founders’ views of capital punishment is also a passionate call for the abolition of the death penalty based on the notion of cruel and unusual punishment

The conventional wisdom is that the founders were avid death penalty supporters. In this fascinating and insightful examination of America’s Eighth Amendment, law professor John D. Bessler explodes this myth and shows the founders’ conflicting and ambivalent views on capital punishment. Cruel and Unusual takes the reader back in time to show how the indiscriminate use of executions gave way to a more enlightened approach—one that has been evolving ever since. While shedding important new light on the U.S. Constitution’s “cruel and unusual punishments” clause, Bessler explores the influence of Cesare Beccaria’s essay, On Crimes and Punishments, on the Founders’ views, and the transformative properties of the Fourteenth Amendment, which made the Bill of Rights applicable to the states. After critiquing the U.S. Supreme Court’s existing case law, this essential volume argues that America’s death penalty—a vestige of a bygone era in which ear cropping and other gruesome corporal punishments were thought acceptable—should be declared unconstitutional.

Electronic notes referenced in the book are available here (PDF format, 700kb).

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

JOHN D. BESSLER is an associate professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Tue, 6 Dec 2016 14:04:05 -0500