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Delivering Death: Capital Punishment, Botched Executions and the American Press

Greer, Chris (2005) 'Delivering Death: Capital Punishment, Botched Executions and the American Press.' In: Mason, Paul, (ed.) Captured by the Media. Routledge, 84 - 102. ISBN 978-1843921448

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Since the nineteenth century, executions have been transformed from public events to ‘behind-the-scenes’ bureaucratic procedures, increasingly hidden from the public gaze. Today, for the vast majority of American citizens, capital punishment is rendered visible only through its representation in various forms of media. Media representations, then, are closely interconnected with how the death penalty is ‘made to mean’ throughout the USA and the rest of the world. This chapter explores the construction of juridical killing in the American press by considering the representation of three ‘botched executions’ (executions in which the apparatus of death, in this case the electric chair, malfunctions) which took place in Florida during the 1990s. Botched executions are of particular interest for at least two obvious reasons. First, they represent a direct challenge to the state’s desired presentation of capital punishment as quick, clean and painless. Secondly, by making the violence inherent in capital punishment clearly visible, and raising questions about the suffering of the condemned, they present abolitionists with an important opportunity to mobilize support against the continued use of the death penalty. How the press construct botched executions offers useful insights into the contemporary meaning of capital punishment in America, and demonstrates how attempts to challenge the cultural hegemony of state killing in the media may ultimately serve to reinforce it.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2020 12:36
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2020 12:36

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