Tom Lowenstein

Recent Articles

The Burden of Execution

The Last Face You'll Ever See: The Private Life of the American Death Penalty By Ivan Solotaroff. HarperCollins, 232 pages, $25.00 Legal Lynching: The Death Penalty and America's Future By Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.; Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.; and Bruce Shapiro. New Press, 174 pages, $22.95 I van Solotaroff states early on in The Last Face You'll Ever See that he is agnostic on the subject of the death penalty. His book, he writes, will make no attempt to answer the question of whether the death penalty is moral or not; he instead will focus on "the motive of capital punishment." He asks: "Is an execution a rational mechanism--i.e., a tool of deterrence, punishment, or jurisprudence... ? Or is it something altogether different--an expression of an irrational urge far more subterranean than the will to justice?" In posing such a question, Solotaroff has put his finger on one of the most important moral quandaries in the debate. Yet he wants his readers to know that he didn't write the book to...

Against Execution

W hen Julie Marie Welch enrolled for her freshman year at Bishop McGuinness High School in Oklahoma City, she registered for classes in German, Latin, and Spanish. Her freshman adviser reminded her that the school also offered classes in math, science, and history, to name a few, but Julie was intent on studying languages. During her sophomore year, she went to Spain as an exchange student, and as a junior and senior she added French and Italian to her course load. Julie's father, Bud, tried to convince her to apply to Notre Dame. "I think parents are certainly guilty of reliving their childhood over through their children," he explained recently. "This is what I was doing with Julie. I never attended college myself, but Notre Dame was always my school. I tried to influence her into applying there, and finally one day when I asked her why she wouldn't, she said, 'Dad, I have to apply to schools where I think that I need to go, not to some...

A Perfect Killing?

F or the last 4 years, as evidence has grown that the death penalty system in this country is rusted through, death penalty supporters have held one person aloft as the shining example of why we "need" capital punishment in this country: Timothy McVeigh. Point out that the federal death penalty has been sought almost 80 percent of the time against minorities, and supporters of the death penalty point to McVeigh. What about the almost 100 innocent people let off of death row since 1977? McVeigh is the answer. Ninety-seven percent of people on death row are indigent? McVeigh. Questions about the reliability of eyewitness testimony? Again, McVeigh. What about the fact that a forensic scientist in Oklahoma City whose testimony helped send 23 people to death row (11 of whom have been executed already) is now being investigated for lying under oath on scores of occasions? McVeigh is why we need capital punishment, the perfect case: He did it, he was well-represented at trial, and race...

A Conversation with Edgar Barens

Thomas K. Lowenstein has a conversation with Edgar Barens, the filmmaker of the documentary, A Sentence of Their Own . The documentary examines the life of Becky Raymond and her sons Donnie and Josh as they cope with the financial and emotional difficulties of having a family member -- Becky's husband Alan -- serving a seven-year prison sentence in a far-away state. Lowenstein: How did you come to this subject? Barens: I'm Media Projects Coordinator for the Center on Crime, Communities, & Culture at the Open Society Institute. We produce films about issues surrounding the criminal justice system. We're always trying to bring certain issues to light that people overlook. We decided last year that we wanted to humanize the families of inmates, present and highlight the unintended consequences of incarcerating people -- the financial difficulties, psychological effects on their families. The mission for this film was to increase the awareness and the concern...

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