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December 5, 2004

For the death penalty historian

With great thanks to Jack Chin for this post at CrimProf Blog, I came across an amazing series of articles in the Richmond Times Dispatch looking at the history of Virginia's use of the death penalty from 1908 to 1954. The series of articles, like Virginia's use of the death penalty during this period, is dominated by race.  As the main article details, of the "the 221 men and one woman executed in that 46-year period, 191 were black" and all of the "37 men executed for rape, all 13 executed for attempted rape and all five executed for robbery were black."

The main article, which is entitled "The execution files: State's death penalty history told in personal records of the condemned," draws on letters from prisoners to spotlight the many human stories behind these statistics.  And the series includes an article on the "Martinsville Seven", a group of black defendants quickly prosecuted and executed for the rape on one woman, as well as pieces focused on the way race was built into Virginia's capital punishment laws, and the racial realities of a 1931 rape trial.

On a much lighter note, and on a history subject that has nothing to do with sentencing (unless King Tut was actually murdered), this Steve Martin op-ed in the NY Times made me laugh out loud, as did reviewing the song he is discussing.

December 5, 2004 at 10:00 AM | Permalink


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