A Descending Spiral: Exposing the Death Penalty in 12 Essays

New Pr. May 2021. 208p. ISBN 9781620976548. $25.99. LAW
Attorney Bookman (director, Atlantic Ctr. for Capital Representation) makes a convincing case for ending capital punishment in this collection of 12 essays. Though 10 of the pieces were previously published in magazines such as the Atlantic and Mother Jones, they will be new to many readers. The book’s title comes from Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement that violence is a “descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.” Bookman argues that capital punishment in the U.S. is an arbitrary act of state-sanctioned violence dependent on factors such as the lawyer a defendant can afford; the state where a case is brought; the defendant’s race, gender, and/or mental health; and even whether a trial disrupts the judge’s vacation. The book’s thematic flow would have been improved by tighter editing to weave all 12 essays into an overarching narrative and remove repetition. Nevertheless, this is an absorbing, stirring work.
VERDICT Readers interested in the death penalty and injustice in the U.S. criminal justice system, as well as those who enjoyed Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, will appreciate this title.
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