November 30, 2009
18 illus.
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
1.4 Pounds (US)
$29.95 USD
v2.1 Reference

Anatomy of an Execution

The Life and Death of Douglas Christopher Thomas

It is an undisputed fact that Chris Thomas was guilty of participating in a brutal double homicide. He was convicted of killing his girlfriend’s parents in November of 1990, was sentenced to death in November of 1991, and was executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia in January of 2000. Chris Thomas was one of the last juvenile offenders to be put to death before the Supreme Court ruled that the execution of juveniles constituted cruel and unusual punishment. In Anatomy of an Execution, Todd C. Peppers and Laura Trevvett Anderson tell the entire story, shedding light on issues surrounding the death penalty—such as the quality of court appointed counsel, the execution of juveniles (from both a constitutional law and public policy perspective), conditions of confinement on death row, and the role of spiritual advisors in the condemned’s last days. While providing insight into the legal workings of the modern death penalty system, the book also offers a rare glimpse of a young, condemned man’s life before and after the crime: a childhood ravaged by loss and neglect, a toxic first love, the brutal murders, trial and sentencing, and, ultimately, a chance at redemption. This is not an effort to excuse a crime but an assertion that even a murderer’s life is worth more than its worst act.

About the Authors

TODD C. PEPPERS is an associate professor in the Department of Public Affairs at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, and a lecturer in law at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia. He is the author of Courtiers of the Marble Palace: The Rise and Influence of the Supreme Court Law Clerk. LAURA TREVVETT ANDERSON was Chris Thomas’s high school teacher, corresponded with him extensively while on death row, and served as his spiritual advisor during his final days in the death house.


“A major addition to death-penalty literature.”—Washington Post Book World

“Anatomy of an Execution is a serious treatment worth reading for anyone interested in the court system and the death penalty.”—Roanoke Times


"Justice Harry Blackmun once said in a capital case the trial is the main event, but Anatomy of an Execution shows Chris Thomas's trial was nothing more than a momentary pause on the way to his execution. It wasn't only the system and the players in it that let down Chris Thomas, the book also demonstrates that again and again the adults who might have prevented the tragedy of the murders and the execution leave this young boy to grieve alone and find his own way in a world he doesn't know or understand. I urge you to read this hauntingly personal book." —Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking and Death of Innocents

"This is truly extraordinary work. Anatomy of an Execution combines excellent scholarship and legal analysis with a compelling and tragic life story. As such, it is accessible to lay readers and true crime buffs, as well as instructive to criminologists and lawyers. Very few if any books of this genre are its match." —Victor Streib, Professor of Law and former Dean, Ohio Northern University of Law
Northeastern University Press

9781555537135 : anatomy-of-an-execution-peppers-anderson
272 Pages
$29.95 USD

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