Books and Movies Reviews

Capital Punishment and John Grisham

Every society in history has wrought punishments upon those who have violated its laws
and/or codes of conduct. From Hammurabi's "eye for an eye" to the some Middle Eastern
countries' practice of amputating the hands of thieves, many of these punishments involve violence
and pain. Some governmental systems are willing to execute those convicted of the worst crimes.
The United States of America is one of the countries which feels comfortable with killing its own
citizens.The Chamber by John Grisham deals, in detail, with the subject of capital punishment.
This novel forces its readers to seriously consider the consequences of the death penalty,
especially in the broken, lumbering legal system existing today in the United States. The book
discusses almost every possible argument against capital punishment. The character who is set to die
in the gas chamber, Sam Cayhall, is a textbook example of most of them.
First, there is the issue of what to do with a person who has, in the past, done horrible
things but is now harmless and deeply regretful of his/her actions. The crime for which Sam is on
death row occurred more than 30 years before his execution. He has definitely been denied a timely
punishment. He is already in his 60s and will likely die soon anyway. There is also a question as to
whether execution is giving a criminal the "easy way out." Sam says he is happy that he will be
executed and that if, by some outside chance, he got a last-minute stay of execution, he would
rather kill himself than spend more time rotting alive in his tiny, hot cell.
Another point of contention for those opposed to the death penalty is that inevitably,
innocent people will die. With the death penalty, there is no way to "take it back" if a mistake is
discovered after the punishment is carried out. Sam has been convicted of a bombing in which two