David Oshinsky's Capital Punishment On Trial

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David Oshinksy’s most recent book, Capital Punishment on Trial: Furman v. Georgia and the Death Penalty in Modern America, focuses on the extremely controversial yet important issue of capital punishment in the United States. Oshinsky’s text covers the debated topic in a scholarly yet concise way. With the text being a mere 125 pages, he covers the prolonged, contentious history of the death penalty. At the beginning of the book, Oshinsky describes what occurred in the early hours of August 11, 1967. William Micke was suddenly murdered in the hallway of his house by William Henry Furman, a disabled, illiterate 24 year old who had a troubled past with law enforcement. Furman was charged with felony murder and was sentenced to death for the crime…show more content…
Some justices were advocates of capital punishment and some opposed it. For most of chapter three, Oshinsky described the views of the various justices. For example, he noted, “William O. Douglas was a longtime opponent of capital punishment” (Oshinsky, 2010). He also included William Brennan as an opponent of the death penalty. In 1972, the courts announced their Furman decision, voting against the death penalty as practiced (Oshinsky, 2010). However, the abolishment of the death penalty was short-lived. By 1976, the Supreme Court agreed to hear five state death penalty cases, consecutively known as Gregg vs. Georgia (Oshinsky, 2010). Again, after much deliberation, the court stated, “We now hold that the punishment of death does not invariably violate the Constitution” (Oshinsky, 2010). In the years after the Gregg decision, it has been decided that murderers who are minors, mentally insane, or mentally incompetent at the time of their crime are exempt from the death penalty.
Oshinsky did a remarkable job explaining the history of the death penalty in a clear and concise way. While the text was fairly short, he effectively provided his readers with well documented and relevant information on how controversial the death penalty has been throughout the past few centuries. He undertook an exceptionally important issue that many Americans do not know much about, or may have conflicting feelings
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