Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research17:2 (Fall 2007). Copyright ©2007 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


The debate over capital punishment is driven by data and stories. Social scientists have amassed and analyzed mountains of data on issues like deterrence, public opinion, racial bias, and financial cost, data that have convinced most social scientists and much of the general public that the death penalty ought to be abandoned. But support for or opposition to capital punishment is not guided by a dispassionate analysis of data alone. It is also fueled by stories. There are the stories of the murderers and their horrible crimes. There are the stories of the victims whose lives were tragically cut short, and the stories of their families who must cope not only with the loss of the person they love but must also come to terms with how the victim's life was ended. The development of DNA identification has added another set of compelling stories to the debate: those of people who have been wrongly convicted of capital murder and have spent year son death row waiting to be killed for crimes they did not commit. In her groundbreaking book, Susan F. Sharp adds the stories of the families of death row prisoners to those of victims, murderers, and the wrongly convicted.