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October 4, 2011

Political Science Alum to Publish Book

John D. Bessler graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Political Science in 1998. He is now an associate professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. His new book, Cruel and Unusual: The American Death Penalty and the Founder's Eighth Amendment, examines the conventional wisdom that the Founding Fathers were avid death penalty supporters and shows that in fact the founders had conflicting and ambivalent views on capital punishment. While shedding important new light on the U.S. Constitution's "cruel and unusual punishments" clause, Bessler explores the influence of Cesare Beccaria's essay, On Crimes and Punishments, on the Founders' views, and the transformative properties of the Fourteenth Amendment, which made the Bill of Rights applicable to the states. After critiquing the U.S. Supreme Court's existing case law, this essential volume argues that America's death penalty--a vestige of a bygone era in which ear cropping and other gruesome corporal punishments were thought acceptable--should be declared unconstitutional.