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The Last Face You'll Ever See: The Private Life of the American Death Penalty
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The Last Face You'll Ever See: The Private Life of the American Death Penalty



Rate it! You must be logged in to submit a rating.You must be logged in to submit a rating.You must be logged in to submit a rating.You must be logged in to submit a rating.You must be logged in to submit a rating. (Avg. 4.6) Customer Reviews
ISBN: 006017448X
Release Date: September, 2001
Publisher: Harper
Description: In fascinating detail, Ivan Solotaroff introduces us to the men who carry out executions. Although the emphasis is on the personal lives of these men and of those they have to put to death, The Last Face You'll Ever See also addresses some of the deeper issues of the death penalty and connects the veiled, elusive figure of the executioner to the vast majority of Americans who, since 1977, have claimed to support executions. Why do we do it? Or, more exactly, why do we want to?The Last Face You'll Ever See is not about the polarizing issues of the death penalty -- it is a firsthand report about the culture of executions: the executioners, the death-row inmates, and everyone involved in the act. An engrossing, unsettling, and provocative book, this work will forever affect anyone who reads it.
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Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 006017448X
ISBN-13: 9780060174484
Publisher: Harper
Release Date:
Length: 256 Pages
Weight: 1.10 lbs.
Dimensions: 1.0 x 6.3 x 9.7 in.
Language: English
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The Last Face You'll Ever See: The Culture of Death Row
ISBN: 0060931035
Publisher: Harper Perennial
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Book Description
Book Details
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0060931035
ISBN-13: 9780060931032
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Release Date: November, 2002
Length: 232 Pages
Weight: 0.41 lbs.
Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.3 x 8.0 in.
Language: English
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Customer Reviews

5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsA quick excellent read,can be knocked off in a free weekend
Posted by Douglas E. Libert on 11/20/2007
This is an excellent read and is more a narrative than any type of expose' on Capital Punishment.The author appears to distance himself and gives neither a pro nor con for Capital Punishment so if you you have preconceived strong notions either way you will not enjoy this book. The story describes a man in the south who after alot of different experiences in work and education finds himself the man who,"readies and pulls the switch",for Mississippi's gas chamber in the 90's. From the read,it is obvious the man does not enjoy his work but feels he is doing it to protect and give justice to the "small town" people who are terrorized by some of these violent criminals.He performs only 3 executions and announces he can no longer do it because it is causing stress and nightmares.There are graphic descriptions of the executions including "creature noises",etc.The book leaves little doubt that the gas chamber probably is not a humane form of capital punishment.One lady.a murderess,was told by the executioner to "breathe deeply and it will be more peaceful",retorted,"How in the Hell would you know"!After reading this book you will know too!!One interesting note in the book is the fact that the southern prison system does not relish in these executions and are in fact more empathetic to the condemned than I had ever imagined.This is one book you'll remember!
4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 starsAmerica's Sanctified Killers
Posted by Matthew P. Arsenault on 4/16/2002
Solotaroff did a commendable job maintaining his journalistic integrity and objectivity, especially when reporting on a topic as controversial as capital punishment, and that I think, is the key to successful reporting.

The author provided a face to the otherwise annonymous executioners who serve the will of society (or at least the court system) by actually enforcing the sentence of death.

Solotaroff choronicled the life and work of a number of executioners, and discussed the emotional repurcussions of serving as a state sanctified killer. He was able to capture the tumultuous emotions that accompany a life at the switch, and a life of "playing god."

There seems to be a fine line between jailer and the jailed, executioner and murderer, and Solotaroff did a fine job of capturing these subtle differences, and providing the reader with food for thought in regards to the American death penalty.

4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 stars4 out of 5 starsWell written perspective of the men who pull the lever.
Posted by Anonymous on 11/3/2001
Ivan Solotaroff's book skirts around the endless debate over the pros and cons of capital punishment and instead focuses with an unbiased look at the men who are responsible for carrying out death sentences. A brief history of executioners is given, but the main subjects of this book are Donald Hocutt and Don Cabana, the executioner and warden of Parchman prison in Mississippi in the 1980's.

I was relieved to to see that Solotaroff did not attack Hocutt for his job nor try to moralize an abolitionist position. Instead, he documents Hocutt's narratives not only about mixing chemicals and pulling the lever to release gas into the chamber, but also the rigors of being a guard in the maximum security unit at one of the nation's roughest prisons. The inmates are not made out to be angels, for their crimes are described in full, but we do see how isolation from society makes them despondent and desperate.

The dangers and visual horrors of execution via cyanide gas are well conveyed in this book. The 1983 execution of inmate Jimmy Lee Gray (who kidnapped, brutally raped a 3 year old neighbor before suffocating her in mud) did not go as planned. Hocutt, who was in direct sight of the inmate, watched as his body went into spasm from the gas and he repeatedly slammed his head into a steel support pole behind the chair to which he was strapped. Cabana, who was then with the Missouri Dept. of Corrections, was in the witness area -- contemplating the possibility of soon having to conduct an execution in his prison with this method.

The book embraces and seeks to shed light on that troubling question - how do these corrections officials deal with knowing they will put an inmate to death? Neither are enthusiastic about their responsibility (Cabana ultimately retired after conducting three executions at Parchman as it's warden and is now an abolitionist lecturer) but it is interesting to read how they endured stress and unease to varying degrees.

Having witnessed executions first hand, I can relate to some degree of the experiences of these men. It is not something to be taken lightly. If society decides that death is a justifiable penalty for certain egregious crimes (something which I support), then it is up to someone to carry out those sentences. We need not demonize them, for the book makes clear that these men have normal lives and families.

In closing, I am reminded of a line of dialogue in the 1967 film version of the novel 'In Cold Blood' between two reporters.

"Who is the executioner?"
'We the people'.

5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsenlightening reading.
Posted by B. perks on 11/1/2008
Having seen a tv programme about the American capital punishment system during which The author of this book was being interviewed, I thought I'd like to read his work. This book is very interesting and shocking in some ways. very good information, makes you stop and think from the executioners point of view, and also how deserving some prisoners are to be executed, while others perhaps not. Good informative reading, though not for the faint hearted.
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsWONDERFUL BOOK
Posted by Elizabeth Appel on 2/29/2008
I thought this book gave a great overview of the death sentence in America. The history of the death sentence and the laws that govern it was very informative and interesting..The book read like a novel and I would recommend it to anyone wanting more information on this subject.
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