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Recently updated and derived from more than 100 in-depth interviews and tens of thousands of pages of documentary material, Among the Lowest of the Dead gives readers an unprecedented look into the actual workings of the modern system of capital punishment. No other book covers the subject as completely, from the grim confines of death row to the lofty precincts of the federal courts; from the passions of death penalty opponents to the cool deliberations of governors and wardens; from the warped minds of the killers to the endless sorrow left in the wake of their crimes.
David von Drehle , a Washington Post journalist, strives to present an honest picture, rather than arguing a case. Through meticulous detail and strong narrative, Among the Lowest of the Dead offers a broad introduction to the complex human politics of capital punishment while showing why the death penalty system remains—nearly 30 years after its overhaul—costly, slow and unpredictable. Using the specific experience of a single state over a turbulent decade—Florida in the 1980s— Among the Lowest of the Dead portrays complex controversies through intimate, human stories.
All of the major issues surrounding the subject—political pressures, wrongful conviction, the byzantine appeals process, inconsistent sentencing, the difficulty of determining defendants' mental capacity and moral culpability, and more—are covered in a book that has been required reading in settings as diverse as freshman seminars and judicial orientations. Among the Lowest of the Dead is ideal for students and scholars interested in criminology, legal advocacy, religion, and the new literary journalism.
"I think it is an extremely well-informed and richly insightful book of great value to students of the death penalty as well as intelligent general readers with a serious interest in the subject; and that it is also exciting reading. It should certainly be in print and readily available to new generations of readers who want to form knowledgeable judgments in the continuing—and recently accelerating—controversies about capital punishment."
—Anthony Amsterdam, Professor of Law at New York University Law School
"Among the Lowest of the Dead is a powerfully written and meticulously researched book that makes an invaluable contribution to the growing public dialogue about capital punishment in America. It's one of those rare books that bridges the gap between mass audiences and scholarly disciplines, the latter including sociology, political science, criminology and journalism. The book is required reading in my Investigative Journalism classes---and my students love it!"
—David Protess, Professor of Journalism at Northwestern University
"Among The Lowest of the Dead deserves a permanent place in the literature as literature, and is most relevant to today's death penalty debate as we moderate advocates and abolitionists search for common ground."
—Robert Blecker, Professor of Law at the New York School of Law
"Perhaps the finest book ever on the death penalty."
—Chicago Tribune Book Pages