The Unforgiven: Utah's Executed Men

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9781560850984: The Unforgiven: Utah's Executed Men

Since the days of "frontier justice" and "blood atonement," Utah has struggled with issues of capital punishment. Years after the Mountain Meadows massacre, John D. Lee was shot to death seated on his coffin in a theatrical, media-conscious staging, while some fifty other perpetrators went unpunished. Despite pleas for clemency from the daughter of a Mormon church president and others, labor reformer Joe Hill was executed, due as much to corporate indignation as to the merits of the case against him. One of Utah's death row inmates was the first to challenge the constitutionality of his sentence as "cruel and unusual"; another, Gary Gilmore, who was executed by firing squad, broke the ten-year, nationwide moratorium on state-supervised executions. Recently William Andrews became the second Utahn to be executed without having actually committed murder.

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About the Author:

L. Kay Gillespie, author of The Unforgiven: Utah's Executed Men, is a member of the Criminal Justice faculty at Weber State University (Ogden, Utah) and a former chair of the WSU Department of Sociology and Anthropology. He has previously served as the director of the Idaho State Youth Training Center, director of research for the Ettie Lee Homes for Boys, director of training for the Utah Department of Corrections, and a member of the Utah State Board of Pardons.

Review:

Death-penalty historian Watt Espy has confirmed over 18,000 executions throughout the history of the United States and its territories. Virginia has executed over 2,000, New York over 1,300, Georgia over 1,100, and Pennsylvania and North Carolina both over 1,000. My own state of Florida has executed 225 men in our electric chair since it was first used in 1924. Since 1847 Utah has executed only 47 men, yet this still more than a dozen other states. This book is a very brief history of those "unforgiven," as the author aptly calls them, with a minimum of background on the subject. The author is chair of the Department of Sociology at Weber State University, but, more important for this work, he was appointed to the Utah State Board of Pardons in 1983 and subsequently worked for the Department of Corrections. Those roles gave him an intimate contact with the death penalty and those men condemned to die for their crimes in Utah. The most engrossing passages of the book draw from those experiences, and the reader will wish he had drawn from them more often. While he professes to be a supporter of the death penalty, he observes in his very tempting prologue that "There is no humane way to execute, but we pretend there is." The author never suggests his book will plumb the souls of these men or his soul as he examines them. It is more journalism than scholarship or introspection. After some introductory history on nineteenth-century Mormon belief in blood atonement he briefly discusses demographics, the fate of unexecuted accomplices, and the manner of execution. (Utah is one of the few states requiring the condemned to elect his manner of execution from statutory choices, currently lethal injection and firing squad but in the past including hanging and the never-used beheading.) The author then moves through a two- or three-page discussion of each of the 47 who died names, dates, brief descriptions of crimes, trials and executions. Most have an accompanying photograph. His discussion of more recent events includes the most thought-provoking portion of the book, the sentencing and 1988 execution of Gary Bishop. He was that rare death-row inmate, a repentant man who wished to die, a "volunteer" in the vernacular of the death-row defense lawyer. Bishop's Mormon beliefs played an important role in his case. The book winds down with a discussion of Utah commutations and pardons, past and present. The author also recounts his own experimental stay of a few hours in an unoccupied death-row cell surrounded by and talking with the condemned. This book is interesting and quickly read. The author makes a point not to promise a great deal, but when you finish you still wish you knew more about these "unforgiven," how it was they arrived at this state in life, and Gillespie's thoughtful reaction to them. --Ken Driggs - Utah Historical Quarterly

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Gillespie, L. Kay
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Book Description Signature Books 0, Salt Lake City, UT. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 1560850981 Brand new softcover book! Never been read! ; Since the days of "frontier justice" and "blood atonement, " Utah has struggled with issues of capital punishment. Years after the Mountain Meadows massacre, John D. Lee was shot to death seated on his coffin in a theatrical, media-conscious staging, while some fifty other perpetrators went unpunished. Despite pleas for clemency from the daughter of a Mormon church president and others, labor reformer Joe Hill was executed, due as much to corporate indignation as to the merits of the case against him. One of Utah's death row inmates was the first to challenge the constitutionality of his sentence as "cruel and unusual"; another, Gary Gilmore, who was executed by firing squad, broke the ten-year, nationwide moratorium on state-supervised executions. Recently William Andrews became the second Utahn to be executed without having actually committed murder. ; 6" x 9"; 220 pages. Bookseller Inventory # 26342

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