Capital Punishment and Lynching

Authored by: Margaret Vandiver

Routledge Handbook on Capital Punishment

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138651579
eBook ISBN: 9781315624723
Adobe ISBN:


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Lethal punishment has taken the lives of thousands of people in the United States. These killings fall into two categories, legal executions and illegal lynchings. 1 Questions about the relationship between the two have engaged scholars since at least the early years of the twentieth century (Cutler, 1905/1969, 1907; Bye, 1919) and continue to generate research. This chapter explores the relationship by addressing two main issues: the link between lynchings and executions during the lynching era, and the lingering influence of lynching on modern capital punishment. 2 Despite the striking resemblance between some executions and lynchings during the historic period, close examination reveals a complex and varied relationship between the two forms of lethal punishment. The brutal and immediate violence of lynchings appears to be in stark contrast with the highly bureaucratic and lengthy processes involved in the current administration of capital punishment; however, there are intriguing indications that the mob killings of the earlier period may continue to influence modern practices.

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