Stay of Execution

Lane puts himself squarely in the camp of the “pro-death penalty American majority,” yet believes that its application reveals “troubling flaws.” Addressing the lack of a standards in sentencing that allows counties to act autonomously, Lane says that “There is no ‘American criminal justice system,’ but rather 3,141 criminal justice systems.” He studies the use and abuse of capital punishment, and uncovers statistical evidence of racism (until 1967, Southern courts defined the rape of a white woman by a black man as a capital crime.) Lane dismisses claims that the penalty is a deterrent, comparing the homicide rate in Canada, where the death penalty was abolished in 1967, with that of the U.S. Lane feels that the death penalty should be used sparingly, not as retribution but as a “special penalty” for “special crimes” in order to affirm the sanctity of human life, and breaking with the European Union’s definition of capital punishment as a human-rights issue (“everyone has an absolute right not to be put to death by the state”). A member of the Washington Post’s editorial board, Lane has produced a careful, considered examination of a divisive issue. — Publishers Weekly (starred review)