FSG, 2003, 18.00, 164 pp.
Legal thriller author served as a former federal prosecutor, a death penalty appellate lawyer, and on former Illinois Governor Ryan's Commission on Capital Punishment. Mr. Turow describes his change in attitude towards the death penalty. In this non-fiction book, the author says much of his reflections came about mostly based on his work with the commission. Their findings shocked the country, but not as much as Ryan's commutations of sentencing that included a convicted child serial killer.
ULTIMATE PUNISHMENT goes deep into the psychology and philosophy behind capital punishment. However, much of the writing is devoted to the shock of what was found in the Illinois system. Everyone including the most hard nosed members of the commission were stunned to learn how arbitrary the process actually is. Logic is ignored as in many cases the victims' rights overwhelmed the rights of the defendant (usually the first available suspect).
As a most interesting postscript, no other governor has followed Mr. Ryan's lead preferring to bury their heads in the sand. It is politically easier to follow the successful path of then Governor Bush of Texas that nothing is wrong. This includes the current "get tough on killers" politics of Ryan's replacement. Whether you support the ULTIMATE PUNISHMENT or not, this book is worth reading. Mr. Turow raises a fundamental issue of a failed inconsistent system fed fodder by leaders acting like the mother in the Glass Menagerie by preferring to politically pretend all is well in the world.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner