History Faculty Publications

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Publication Source

The Christian Century


Reviews of two books:

  • Rachel King, Don’t Kill in Our Names: Families of Murder Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty.
  • Scott Turow, Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer’s Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty.

In 2000, Gov. George Ryan of Illinois declared a moratorium on executions. He was horrified that innocent men had nearly been executed on his watch, and he was impressed by stories in the Chicago Tribune detailing the problems of his state's capital punishment system. Ryan established a commission to study the system and propose reforms. In 2002 the commission issued its report, which included 85 specific recommendations. Fearful of the political consequences, the Illinois legislature refused to enact even one of the proposals. So in January 2003 Ryan dramatically commuted the sentences of the remaining 167 death row inmates.

Among the people Ryan appointed to the commission was Scott Turow, a bestselling novelist and practicing attorney with experience in death penalty cases. He was, at the time of his appointment, a self-described "agnostic" on capital punishment. Ultimate Punishment is Turow's account of his struggle to resolve for himself the question, Should we retain the death penalty?

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The Christian Century





Place of Publication

Chicago, IL

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