The United States stands alone as the only Western democracy that still practices capital punishment. Yet the American death penalty has gone into noticeable decline, with annual death sentences and executions dwindling steadily in recent years. In Stay of Execution, Charles Lane offers a fresh analysis of this unexpected trend and its moral and political implications. Countering conventional wisdom that attributes the death penalty's decline to public rejection of the "ultimate sanction," he shows that it is instead related to the ebbing of violent crime itself. The death penalty is not only more popular than critics claim; it is also less flawed by wrongful executions or racial bias. Lane argues that capital punishment should be preserved, while proposing major reforms to address its real inequities and inconsistencies.
Charles Lane is an editorial writer and member of the editorial board at the Washington Post. He has been a correspondent at Newsweek and editor and senior editor at the New Republic.