“Public Executions: The Death Penalty and the Media”: Not Nearly As Abstruse as I Feared

Public Executions: The Death Penalty and the Media
Christopher S. Kudlac
Crime, Media, and Culture Series, Praeger, 2007

I was a bit puzzled when I pulled this one out of the “Popular Reading” section of my local university’s law library.

The title drew me in, but I wondered why someone had shelved a media studies work alongside the John Grisham novels. While I am a fan of academic works, I worried this title would be a non-starter for most readers.

This book did not disappoint me, and I do not think it would disappoint someone who wants to relax with a book rather than labor over it.

Kudlac’s account of notorious death-penalty cases serves as “A Brief History of Crime in America.” For anyone seeking an introductory course on the subject, this book will serve you well. The first three chapters are divided chronologically between 1980s serial killers, what the author terms “protest cases” in the ’90s, and the emergence of terrorism-related cases. Kudlac includes his personal observations from the protests and counter-protests outside the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

The book ends with the influence of new science, particularly DNA, on both the legal proceedings of death-penalty appeals and public opinion on “the ultimate punishment.”

Personally, I’m more intrigued by the titles advertised on the back. Particularly that first one.

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3/5 stars: Not entertaining in the traditional sense, but informative and enjoyable.
2/5 ‘fraidy cats: Forty years of murder compressed into 200 pages.
2/5 ick factor: Descriptions of crimes are brief but blunt. Descriptions of botched executions, while rare, are memorable in a bad way.

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