Ultimate Punishment

Scott Turow

22 May 2014
176 pages


As a pioneer of the modern legal novel and a criminal lawyer, Scott Turow has been involved with the death penalty for more than a decade, including successfully representing two different men convicted in death-penalty prosecutions. In Ultimate Punishment, a vivid account of how his views on the death penalty have evolved, Turow describes his own experiences with capital punishment from his days as an impassioned young prosecutor to his recent service on the Illinois commission which investigated the administration of the death penalty and influenced Governor George Ryan's unprecedented commutation of the sentences of 164 death row inmates on his last day in office.

Along the way, he provides a brief history of America's ambivalent relationship with the ultimate punishment, analyzes the potent reasons for and against it, including the role of the victims' survivors, and tells the powerful stories behind the statistics, as he moves from the Governor's Mansion to Illinois' state-of-the art 'super-max' prison and the execution chamber.

Slim, poignant and hugely powerful musing on America and the death penalty . . . a forensic and yet heartfelt and even troubled examination of the cases for and against capital punishment, and its spare and elegant prose will leave no side in the debate feeling short-changed . . . The book’s power lies in Turow’s own initial ambivalence – and there is no reason to suspect this is literary artifice . . . He never hectors or judges and yet effortlessly steers the reader to the close
Gripping and lucid consideration of America’s continued application of the death penalty