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BOOKS: "Cruel and Unusual: The American Death Penalty and the Founders' Eighth Amendment"

A forthcoming book by John D. Bessler, "Cruel and Unusual: The American Death Penalty and the Founders' Eighth Amendment ," discusses the history of the Eighth Amendment and the country's founders’ views on capital punishment. While the conventional wisdom is that the founders were avid death penalty supporters, Bessler's examination shows they had conflicting and ambivalent views on the subject. Bessler analyzes the U.S. Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment case law and argues that the death penalty should probably be held unconstitutional. Sister Helen Prejean. noted activist and author of

Dead Man Walking. described Bessler's book as: “A searing indictment of capital punishment, this pioneering history of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause is destined to reframe America’s death penalty debate. As a definitive account of the Eighth Amendment’s origins and the Founding Fathers’ own ambivalent views on executions, it will forever change our perceptions of cruelty and penal reform in the founding era." John Bessler is an associate professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.

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