Ultimate Punishment

Last updated
Ultimate Punishment
Ultimate Punishment.jpg
Author Scott Turow
CountryUnited States
Genre Autobiography
Publisher Farrar Straus & Giroux
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages164 (paperback)
ISBN 0-374-12873-1 (paperback)
OCLC 52030296
345.73/0773 21
LC Class KF9227.C2 T87 2003
Preceded by Reversible Errors  
Followed by Ordinary Heroes  

Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty is a 2003 series of autobiographical reflections regarding the death penalty. It is written by Scott Turow and marks his return to non-fiction for the first time since One L in 1977.

Turow bases his opinions on his experiences as a prosecutor and, in his years after leaving the United States Attorney's Office in Chicago, working on behalf of death-row inmates, as well as his two years on Illinois's Commission on Capital Punishment, charged by then-Gov. George Ryan with reviewing the state's death penalty system. Turow, a self-described "death penalty agnostic," presents both sides of the death penalty debate and admits that over time he seems to change sides, depending on the argument. He finally concludes that "the pivotal question instead is whether a system of justice can be constructed that reaches on the rare, right cases, without also occasionally condemning the innocent or the undeserving," and reveals "[t]oday, I would still do as I did when Paul Simon asked whether Illinois should retain capital punishment. I voted no." (pp.114-115)

Turow's reflections include:

He also visits a maximum security prison and meets multiple-murderer Henry Brisbon, who, Turow says, "most closely resembles... Hannibal Lecter".


Ultimate Punishment received the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights 2004 Book award given annually to a novelist who "most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert F. Kennedy's purposes - his concern for the poor and the powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity." [1] Kirkus Reviews described the book as "Well-presented, if dry and hardly original". [2] Publishers Weekly said of the book that "The early chapters may confuse listeners ... but even so, this is a provocative, worthwhile listen". [3]

Reviewing the book, The Independent newspaper in February 2004, Robert Verkaik said that Turow's "experiences as a young prosecutor and a death-row defence attorney have given him a unique insight into how the death penalty works in America" and further stated that "Although one always suspects Turow must be against the death penalty, he cleverly deploys the suspense of his fiction to raise doubts about his true position". [4]

Related Research Articles

Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty and formerly called judicial homicide, is the state-sanctioned practice of killing a person as a punishment for a crime, usually following an authorised, rule-governed process to conclude that the person is responsible for violating norms that warrant said punishment. The sentence ordering that an offender be punished in such a manner is known as a death sentence, and the act of carrying out the sentence is known as an execution. A prisoner who has been sentenced to death and awaits execution is condemned and is commonly referred to as being "on death row". Etymologically, the term capital refers to execution by beheading, but executions are carried out by many methods, including hanging, shooting, lethal injection, stoning, electrocution, and gassing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scott Turow</span> American author and lawyer (born 1949)

Scott Frederick Turow is an American author and lawyer. Turow has written 13 fiction and three nonfiction books, which have been translated into more than 40 languages and sold more than 30 million copies. Turow’s novels are set primarily among the legal community in the fictional Kindle County. Films have been based on several of his books.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Capital punishment in the United States</span> Legal penalty in the United States

In the United States, capital punishment is a legal penalty throughout the country at the federal level, in 27 states, and in American Samoa. It is also a legal penalty for some military offenses. Capital punishment has been abolished in 23 states and in the federal capital, Washington, D.C. It is usually applied for only the most serious crimes, such as aggravated murder. Although it is a legal penalty in 27 states, 20 states have the ability to execute death sentences, with the other seven, as well as the federal government, being subject to different types of moratoriums. The existence of capital punishment in the United States can be traced to early colonial Virginia. Along with Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan, the United States is one of four advanced democracies and the only Western nation that applies the death penalty regularly. It is one of 54 countries worldwide applying it, and was the first to develop lethal injection as a method of execution, which has since been adopted by five other countries. The Philippines has since abolished executions, and Guatemala has done so for civil offenses, leaving the United States as one of four countries to still use this method. It is common practice for the condemned to be administered sedatives prior to execution, regardless of the method used.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Capital punishment by the United States federal government</span> Legal penalty in the United States

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Capital punishment in California</span> Legal penalty in the US state of California

In the U.S. state of California, capital punishment is a legal penalty. However it is not allowed to be carried out as of June 2023, because executions were halted by an official moratorium ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom. Prior to the moratorium, executions were frozen by a federal court order since 2006, and the litigation resulting in the court order has been on hold since the promulgation of the moratorium. Thus, there will be a court-ordered moratorium on executions after the termination of Newsom's moratorium if capital punishment remains a legal penalty in California by then.

Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), is a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in which the Court held that it is unconstitutional to impose capital punishment for crimes committed while under the age of 18. The 5–4 decision overruled Stanford v. Kentucky, in which the court had upheld execution of offenders at or above age 16, and overturned statutes in 25 states.

<i>United States v Burns</i> Supreme Court of Canada case

United States v Burns [2001] 1 S.C.R. 283, 2001 SCC 7, was a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that found that extradition of individuals to countries in which they may face the death penalty is a breach of fundamental justice under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The decision reached that conclusion by a discussion of evidence regarding the arbitrary nature of execution although the Court did not go so far as to say that execution was also unconstitutional under section 12 of the Charter, which forbids cruel and unusual punishments.

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Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U.S. 808 (1991), was a United States Supreme Court case which held that testimony in the form of a victim impact statement is admissible during the sentencing phase of a trial and, in death penalty cases, does not violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. Payne narrowed two of the Courts' precedents: Booth v. Maryland (1987) and South Carolina v. Gathers (1989).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joshua Marquis</span> American lawyer

Joshua K. Marquis is an attorney and politician from Astoria, Oregon in the United States. He served as District Attorney for Clatsop County from March 1994 until December 31, 2018. He frequently writes and speaks about capital punishment, and is a national advocate for the death penalty.

The debate over capital punishment in the United States existed as early as the colonial period. As of April 2022, it remains a legal penalty within 28 states, the federal government, and military criminal justice systems. The states of Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Washington abolished the death penalty within the last decade alone.

Thomas P. Sullivan was a prominent Illinois attorney known for his involvement in notable constitutional cases, investigations, and contributions to public policy and law. He was a partner at the Jenner & Block law firm.

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Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51 (2011), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court considered whether a prosecutor's office can be held liable for a single Brady violation by one of its members on the theory that the office provided inadequate training.

Glossip v. Gross, 576 U.S. 863 (2015), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held, 5–4, that lethal injections using midazolam to kill prisoners convicted of capital crimes do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court found that condemned prisoners can only challenge their method of execution after providing a known and available alternative method.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard S. Jaffe</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">M Ravi</span> Singaporean lawyer

Ravi Madasamy, better known as M Ravi, is a Singaporean human rights lawyer and activist. Known for his work as a cause lawyer, he has served as counsel in multiple high-profile court cases in Singapore, many of which have become leading cases in Singaporean constitutional law and Singapore's approach toward capital punishment and LGBT rights.

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  1. "Book Award". RFKcenter.org. Archived from the original on 2015-06-19.
  3. "ULTIMATE PUNISHMENT: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty". Publishers Weekly. 3 November 2003. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  4. Verkaik, Robert (24 February 2004). "Ultimate Punishment, by Scott Turow". The Independent. Retrieved 8 June 2022.