Journalist Maurice Chammah says the federal execution spree during the final weeks of the Trump presidency is evidence of the death penalty’s continued decline, not its resurgence. Chammah is the author of the new book, Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty.
Chammah tracks the long arc of the death penalty—its use and its symbolism—alongside the evolution of the criminal justice system as a whole. And he grounds his discussion in American history, particularly the history of Texas, the epicenter of the American death penalty.
In Texas, Chammah contends, a romantic myth about rough frontier justice has been used to obscure the extent to which state-sanctioned execution grew out of mob-driven lynchings, generally of Black men, common across the South after the Civil War until well into the twentieth century.