Legal lynching


            Amongst one of the most perennially mooted debates, on capital punishment, remain the steadiest, bifurcating scholars, professionals and careerists into proponents on one hand, and opponents on the other. The matter of capital punishment, especially the administration of death sentence has drawn legal practitioners, public administrators, human rights activists, theologians and social workers into the fray, with each party waxing polemical against its annulment or its enforcement. It is against this backdrop that Jesse Jackson, Jesse Jackson Jr. and Bruce Shapiro have made painstaking measures to pen down Legal Lynching: the Death Penalty and America’s Future as a way of making their conscience heard and influence the supposed amelioration of the justice system. This book was written in 2001 and

            Death sentence as a form of capital punishment is applicable in the US, though its execution varies by jurisdiction. Practically, death sentence has always been seen as being applicable to aggravated murder, contract killing and felony murder. The origin of death sentence in the US precedes that of the US Constitution, dating back to its preexistence in colonies that were later annexed to America. These laws, having laws originating from their mother countries, continued to effect death penalty in the territories and states they became.

Similarly, the form and methods of execution of death sentence and the nature of crime that warrants the application of death sentence continue to vary. As some jurisdictions have continually tried to extend its applicability, others have moved to suspend death sentencing, while others have outlawed it altogether. In 2009, there were 51 death executions by lethal injection, and one, by electric chair, in the state of Virginia. This signals a slight increase from 2008 which had only 37 death executions.


 Summary of the book

This book comes out as a collaborative work piece that has been penned down out of the concerted efforts of: Jesse Jackson, a former US presidential candidate and also the founder of the Rainbow Coalition); Jackson Jr., a representative in the US; and a renowned editor, Shapiro, working with These three make an in-depth and extensive pursuit of the legal and non-legal factors that color the administration, existence and reality of death sentence (Jackson, 2001). The proposals of a moratorium as an effort to lead to the temporal screeching of the tradition of death sentence form the initial-most section of this book.     

            The bureaucratic hurdles that are thrown at the defense lawyers, the incompetence of defense lawyers in the face of the trial, an imperfect legal and problematic justice systems, and blood-thirsty politicos are all factors that are touched on in a comprehensive manner, as a forces that trouble the handing down of death sentence so that the verdicts that are issued out by the judge are always economically and racially skewed are all tackled by the three in this book.

Having carried out objective examinations, and investigations (but not by themselves), the three point out that the penal code would have been fair to all Americans, but it is not, since one in every eight death row prisoners have always been found innocent and that subsequently released, since 1976, when the US Supreme Court legally allowed the resumption of the executions (Jackson, 2001). All these factors serve as evidence that Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro adduce in their argument to underscore their standpoint that more often than not, proofs of innocence timely fail to see the light of the day, leading to needless loss of lives.

            Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro meticulously follow through the history of death sentence and also elucidate on the reasons as to why the decade-long moratorium which started in 1967 was quashed, paving way to the renewal of federally mandated executions. These authors in order to increase the weight of their argument for their standpoint divulge on fundamental and valid questions which touch on deterrence theories, simple vengeance and the misrepresentation of scriptures, as factors upon which death sentence squarely and fundamentally rests upon (Jackson, 2001). To sum up their arguments, Shapiro, Jackson and Jackson Jr. opine that, “At the present, death sentence epitomize the institutionalization of death, the bureaucratization of death and the engineering of death.”

            It must be noted that the validity of the arguments that Shapiro, Jackson and Jackson Jr. pose along are based on objective and investigative researches which had been carried out by Solotaroff, a renowned journalist. Solotaroff follows behind the scenes, making efforts to interview death sentence executioners. It is on Parchman State Penitentiary in Mississippi that Solotaroff concentrates his efforts. In Parchman State Penitentiary, he specializes on the case of two men: Donald Hacutt and Donald Cabana. A warden who quits his job as a prison warden since he is no longer able to accommodate the gut wrenching circumstances that surround death sentence, Donald Cabana serves as the first interviewee.

Donald Hacutt on the other hand, though appearing enthusiastic about his work, suffers several psychological and physical ailments (Jackson, 2001). Solotorof’s work on Parchman State Penitentiary dares to date back to plantation days, the history of capital punishment in the US and the diverse methods that have always or at one time been used to administer capital punishment; with lethal injections, the electric chair, and gas chambers serving as examples. This brings about the truth in a bare-knuckled form as the executioners’ bravery and the mutilated bodies of the executed death row convicts are given blow by blow descriptions.

The last part of the book deals is a collection crimes and crime scenes. This help the reader as one embroiled in the debate on capital sentence to come up with a balanced overview of the matter at hand, having been presented with the inherently flawed nature of the administration of death sentences and the appalling gravity and nature of crimes that warrant capital sentence.   

Selecting the Three Most Important Ideas Presented In the Work Relative to the Position Taken On Capital Punishment (Discussing These Ideas While Providing Support for Why They Are Important)

            It is a fact that there are fundamental ideas that are tackled by Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro as a way of reinforcing one’s standpoint on the adoption and maintenance of capital sentence. The three most important ideas are: wrongful executions stemming from problems that characterize the US judicial system; the place of religion and capital punishment; and deterrence theories (Jackson, 2001). Indeed, it is these that form the bulk and the core of Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro’s arguments and researches.


Discussing the Values and Assumptions Underlying Your Selection

This argument that is being mooted in this aforementioned work, Legal Lynching: the Death Penalty and America’s Future as presented by Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro touches on sundry values which have always been perceived to glue a community or a nation together. Justice cannot be taken away from the community or a state as an assemblage of persons who are bound by the law (Jackson, 2001). A concept of moral rightness that is hinged on ethics, natural law, fairness, rationality, equity, religion and punishment and retribution for the breaching of these ethics, it is always naturally, logically perceived that a crime must be concomitant to the nature of the crime.

To pose therefore that death sentence should be abolished because it is tantamount to the abnegation of the convict’s rights is to delve on the levity of the matter. On the contrary, the gravity of the matter is that equity demands that the plaintiff is restored to the previous position, predating the effecting of the crime (Jackson, 2001). As a corollary to this, since life can not restored after murder has been committed, it is always assumed by some that the murderer must be taken to account and made liable to the crime, to an extent that the plaintiff will be accused.

            The crux of the natter is that if the matter of justice is not satisfactorily looked into, the inchoate dereliction of capital punishment may leave the society crumbling as interpersonal lividness precipitates into approbation and reprobation, revenge and counter-revenge. A society in which the body politic takes the law in its hands is only anarchical and cannot stand.

Similarly, the failure to consider fairness and equity in the dispensation of justice in respect to capital punishment is bound to allow for too much permissiveness, if more serious are not meted out with the strictest form of punishment or penalty (Jackson, 2001). To this effect, it must be emphasized that a justice system must be seen to placate the discontentment of the plaintiff if it is to hold the state or any civilization together.  It is the same justice system that must ensure that it is totally free of any racial coloring, so that its dispensation can be perceived by people of all color, religion, creed, ideology, class and age.

            Deterrence theories that crime cannot be deterred in the absence of rewards can also not be withdrawn from the justice system and the need to come to a conclusive. It is a fact that cannot be repudiated that (most) men are not repulsed from crime by higher ideals such as love and self control, but rather, by fear (the fear of punishment) (Jackson, 2001). This is to the effect that setting laws that are too lenient on matters that are serious is tantamount to abetting of crime and the driving of a society down on a primrose. 

            The place of religion in capital punishment in the argument is so salient and important; Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro do not make a mistake of sidestepping it. Given that the US draws most of its judicial system and legal codes from Christian ideals since the American founding fathers believed in Christianity, it is granted that most of theological standpoints that are argued on are Christian(Jackson, 2001). The fact that Biblical scripture is littered with indictments against murder and the place of capital punishment reinforces the standpoint held by those who argue in favor of capital punishment. Therefore, anyone arguing on the need to abolish or maintain death sentencing must consider these principles deeply when arguing, using these constructs.

The Potential Impact of These Ideas for Society's Understanding Of Capital Punishment

            It is a fact that the standpoint and ideas being advanced by Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro have far-reaching and pervasive standpoints in the ratification or abolishing of capital punishment. First and foremost, the indictments by Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro against the US judicial system are to be thoroughly investigated. The fact that one out of every eight death row inmates is found innocent after appeal is a factor that must be weighed by the US Supreme Court. The onus can therefore be said to be upon the US congress and House of Representatives and the US Supreme Court to make concerted efforts to restructure the legal channels and systems to ensure that there is fairness, equity, morality, logic in the dispensation of justice (Jackson, 2001). 

It is needful to ensure that the US judicial system is rid of racial profiling. Making the judges answerable to a higher authority such as the US Supreme Court must be expedited up. This effort must also be complemented with the need to make the US Supreme Court and courts of appeal be headed by a council and not individuals, as an artifice to ridding the judicial of conflicting interests. It is this aforementioned judicial council or commission that is to look at ways in which the bureaucratic structures and hurdles that impede the dispensation of justice are flattened out. 

            The attorneys who serve as personal attorneys (especially those who serve suspects likely to serve capital sentence) are to be vetted by the council or commission before being accepted into the bar, with serious heed being paid to qualifications, experience and conduct. This is especially the case, given the need to have suspects likely to serve death sentences have access to an attorney during a court trial. This development comes in respect to the Miranda Rights which sought to strengthen the rights of the suspect. 

            Nevertheless, as far as Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro’s arguments go, it is most important that it be remembered that the frailties of the legal justice; the resultant welfare of the executioner; and racial profiling in themselves, are not reasons that are cogent enough to discount the legitimacy of capital punishment.

            The place of capital punishment is based on very fundamental tenets and precepts that cannot be wished away. That human life is too sacrosanct to be appeased with any other element other than it is one of these tenets. This is a matter that is well underscored by Thomas Jefferson’s standpoint that all men are equal and have certain unalienable rights. It is pejorative to surmise that a murder should pay for the life of the deceased, his victim, by paying bail, or by continuing to live after serving life in prison. The validity of this standpoint, apart from the fact that human life is sacrosanct, is also confirmed by the socio-economic distress that the deceased are subject to, especially if the murder victim was the family’s breadwinner.

            In another wavelength, the argument posed by Jackson, Jackson Jr. and Shapiro that Christianity or the Christian God does not support the administration and maintenance of capital punishment is a very controversial stand that is neither here, nor there. The pointing of the Sermon on the Mountain by Jesus Christ that human beings ought to be forgiving and touching the other cheek remains applicable to interpersonal but not civil relationships. The extension of the principle of ‘turning the other cheek’ cannot be extended to a state’s civil life and relations, as human beings must remain accountable for their actions, being rational beings (Jackson, 2001). The postulation by political philosophers such as St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Locke and Thomas Hobbes that the life of the individual belonged to the state underscores the fact that crimes such as homicide cannot be settled out of the court of law.

            The fact that most world societies in the world are demographically and culturally variegated due to globalization, makes the ratification of the principle of ‘turning the other cheek’ unfeasible. This principle is best feasible to those who like Christians; live under high ideals, being not being able to carry out debauchery on fellow man, deeming his goodness and patience as weakness. Indeed, the fact that America is a melting pot of many cultures makes it difficult to carry out these high ideals outside the provisions of the law. It is the law that would make Americans common, all being under one law (Jackson, 2001).     

            On the contrary, it is needful that St. Paul acknowledges the importance of law enforcement as a socio-economic and political value that is vital for the sustenance and smooth running and administration of a state.  St. Paul’s standpoint is well elaborated in the 13th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Therefore, the spelling out of divine injunctions by God as found in   

            A just community is one where each person has equal rights and freedom and in such punishment should be structured regarding to such lines. Considering the work of Jesse Jackson, the structure of capital punishment has been found to be in just and destructive to people’s rights therefore invalidating the perpetrator’s rights of life and membership to the community. The presence of capital punishment has gotten rid of the right for a person to live and enjoy life in the society making it absolute.

            From Jesse Jackson’s work’ it is clear that there is a lot of interesting information regarding to the consequences of capital punishment.  From the book, it is clearly stipulated that the type of sentence given will greatly be determined by some aspects. Some of them include race, gender and the part of the crime (Jackson, 2001). Jackson illustrates how the issue of capital punishment has been received by the society and the reactions towards it. In the book, the issue of racism and discrimination is clearly brought out regarding to capital punishment. For instance, when those supporting death sentences declared that there was a decrease in the number of murders during the weeks that followed the supreme courts moratorium, it is indicated that this reduction only took place in the eastern parts and this was because of the blizzards that occurred at the period (Jackson, 2001).

            Legal lynching has resulted to the death of numerous innocent people as the quest for justice is being sought. Jacksons considers mistakes to be inevitable and once they occur they can never be reversed. The author shares stories of individuals who were wrongly accused and who almost faced the noose but were luck to be spared. The sentence given by the court has been found to be affected by the gender, race and the region where the crime took place. This is a blatant illustration that people will never trust the judicial system due to the biasness it possesses.


Each and every day innocent persons die annually as the states makes its self busy in hasty rush to execute those whom it believes to be guilty and hence deserve to face the noose. Surprisingly enough, instead of the system involved in executing death penalties being left to professionals who value and respect human life, it is left to incompetent attorneys who are underpaid and hence booze or sleep their heads through trials.  Just as Jackson underscores the place of capital punishment is left to over ambitious prosecutors who see executions to be just another notch to their belts.  Convictions and death sentences are passed on defendants based on unsubstantial evidence, unreliable confessions in the jail house and biased identifications from witnesses.

Appeals are surrounded with a lot of restrictions which decrease the hopes of defendants on the Supreme Court’s softening their hearts on the last pleas of inmates who have been sentenced to death-row. This is in spite of the fact that the making of decision in these courts is infected with documented racism which extends to every level of the systems of justice. As Jessie Jackson reveals teachings of the Holy Scriptures have that call for the sanctity of human life has been forsaken in civil relationships while at other times they are misinterpreted. Human beings have been denied their human rights to life such that one wonders where is the logic of taking a human life to pay for the life of another deceased victim. Legal Lynching should therefore be abolished as it offers no just punishment to those who are subjected to it.


Works Cited

Jackson, Jesse L. Sr., Jesse L. Jackson Jr. and Bruce Shapiro. (2001). Legal Lynching:        The Death Penalty and America’s Future. New York: New Press

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