Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Marquis reviews Leyton-Brown, "The Practice of Execution in Canada"

The Law & Politics Book Review has posted a review of THE PRACTICE OF EXECUTION IN CANADA (University of British Columbia Press, 2010), by Ken Leyton-Brown (University of Regina).

Greg Marquis (University of New Brunswick Saint John) has this to say:
Leyton-Brown argues convincingly that execution [in Canada] was “a social institution (p.8) and that the authorities used these occasions for a number of public purposes, including ‘Canadianizing’ First Nations and immigrants and reinforcing the legal and social order. In Canada there was no organized movement against the death penalty until the mid 20th century, but the new Dominion followed British practice in 1869 by amending its criminal law to make executions ‘private.’ This gave legal force to a trend that local authorities had been practicing for a number of years. Henceforth, only justice officials and possibly members of the press would be present at hangings that took place inside jail compounds. The public, who once gathered in large numbers to witness executions, was notified by a black flag and a toiling bell, as well as by newspaper accounts of the final hours of the condemned, the hanging and the post-mortem inquest. Over the next several decades some of the traditional practices surrounding execution changed or were no longer practiced uniformly, but important continuities remained. The author classifies the stages of the practice of execution: trial and sentencing, redemption, confession, procession, hanging, display, inquest and finally, disposal of the remains of the executed.
Marquis describes the book as "well researched and organized," with "valuable information in the endnotes." He notes that it "raises several important questions for future research."

The full review is here. The TOC and a sample chapter are here.

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