New Book: Lethal State by Seth Kotch

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The UNC Law Library recently added the newly published book, “Lethal State: A History of the Death Penalty in North Carolina” by Seth Kotch to our collection. Seth Kotch is an assistant professor of American Studies here at the University of North Carolina.

This book takes a hard look at the racial side of the death penalty in North Carolina. Koch argues that the death penalty and lynching have more in common than previously addressed in literature. Essentially, “[t]hese efforts at dehumanization work together. . . .the death penalty and lynching were symbiotic, feeding on one another until the death penalty was strong enough to stand on its own.” Seth Kotch, Lethal State 29 (2019).

With a straightforward writing style, Koch offers a detailed explanation of the strands that tie together to make this history: establishing the mimetic relationship of racial subjugation between the two, the desire for modernity that motivated North Carolinian elites to progress methods of killing, mercy as an essential component of the death penalty’s administration, and the decline of the death penalty due to burgeoning alternatives. 

Throughout the book, Koch interweaves specific personal accounts of execution, clemency, and other interactions with the NC penal system alongside historical data analysis. He also reviews the opinions of the mob and the effect the mob had on the judicial process, drawing upon considerations from officials and news at the time. A great resource contained in the back of the book are three tables regarding North Carolina: one for county executions from 1865-1909, one for state executions from 1910-1961, and one for lynching and possible lynchings from 1865-1946.

An incredibly informative and harrowing book, "Lethal State: A History of the Death Penalty in North Carolina" is available for checkout in the law library. This book may be a good choice if you’re interested in North Carolina criminal law.


Posted by Nor Ortiz on Fri. January 24, 2020 11:00 AM
Categories: Uncategorized


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