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Sulla pena di morte

Numero 25

Inverno 2003 - Anno IX

enlightened Sulla pena di morte

enlightened Intervista a Jonathan Lethem

enlightened Quattro poesie di Jimmy Santiago Baca 


Pena di morte

The Meanest Streets. Narrazione, pena di morte, comunità urbane - p.5

Joe Barthel

With stories drawn from his experience as a detective working on death penalty cases, Joe Barthel shows how narratives of urban conditions and class and civil rights can help explain the pressures on a person’s life that can lead to an explosion of murderous violence. Narratives are more likely to reveal aspects of a defendant’s background that more conventional approaches would fail to recognize, and are also more likely to have an impact of juries and move them to more considerate verdicts. Listening to narratives is the basis of an attitude of “looking up”, seeing events from the standpoint of the people involved, thus recognizing that unspeakable things happen around us every day without most of us being aware of them. The stories related in the article concern police abuse, housing conditions, the gentrification of urban space, the frustrating impact of the contrast of life styles and levels of consumption, a “geographic-based anxiety”, the changes in social attitudes brought about by the fact that the prison industry is often the main employer in a given town. A section deals with the unseen but very tangible impact of the lack of public transportation on crime. The final section of the article relates a specific case in which the storytelling approach made it possible to save a young man from the electric chair.

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Oliare il macchinario della morte. La punizione capitale negli Stati Uniti - p.18

Bruce Jackson

The 1972 Furman v. Georgia case prohibited inconsistent and clumsy administration of the death penalty, leading states to refine their legislation so as to make appeals more difficult. From 1972 to 2002, 807 men and women have been put to death in the United States. There is, however, no demonstrable correlation between murder rates and the presence of the death penalty or states that do not, nor is there any correlation between murder rates in states with high execution rates versus states with low execution rates. Serious reversible errors were found in a majority of capital trials, leading to a reversal of almost half of the decisions. Incompetent attorneys and prosecution bent on obtaining a death penalty were the most frequent causes of errors, followed by coerced confessions, racially distorted jury pools, informers who reported on privileged conversations between defendants and attorneys, and bias and errors by the judges. There is an increasing awareness among judicial operators and even in public opinion (even accounting for the impact of September 11) that these errors are inherent to the machinery of the death penalty, and support for it appears to be shifting, while the present administration’s attitudes remain unchanged.

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La pena di morte negli Stati Uniti: “un concetto americano di decenza” - p.27

Antonella Colavita, Maximiliano Ferro

The authors, who work for Amnesty International, Italy, point out the peculiarities of death penalty legislation and de facto situation in the United States, which are sharply in contrast with the abolitionary approach of Western democracies. Racial discrimination and disrespect for international standards in juvenile legislation and treatment are especially analyzed together with the impact which such official attitudes can have on iternational relationships because of the crucial political role of the United States.

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Diritti umani, diritto internazionale e ordinamenti nazionali: il caso degli Stati Uniti - p.36

Adriana Corsi, Cristina Mattiello

If “Human Rights” are inherent in human nature and are pertinent to all human beings just in virtue of their lives, as the 1948 UN Human Rights Declaration states, how can they be implemented into national laws so that all citizens can claim for their respect? Today this is one of the fundamental questions in our interrelated world. Although International Right has accepted the principles of the Declaration many countries neither include them into their national legislation nor ratify international Treaties and Conventions. This is especially dangerous for human rights in the whole world if inobservance comes from a democratic country with a crucial political role like the United States. Violations of human rights in police stations and prisons are also analyzed in the light of Amnesty International Reports and the tremendous impact of President Bush’s reactions to September 11th upon democracy is pointed out. 

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Lo sguardo del boia: The Green Mile di Stephen King - p.24

Valerio Massimo De Angelis

Stephen King’s The Green Mile is a very peculiar kind of intervention in the contemporary American debate on the legitimacy of the death penalty, because it takes the extremely unusual perspective of the executioner. This point of view creates both a political ambiguity, because the narrator-protagonist does not openly question the “nature of his job” and does not seriously attempt to save the life of an innocent and Christ-like Afro- American “dead man walking”. The back-and-forth movement in time of the plot, set both in a Georgia jail during the Depression era and in a present-day asylum for retired old people, frames the narrative of the mentally retarded John Coffey, unjustly accused of killing two sister girls. The narrative conflates the fates of the two men, executioner and executed, both victims of “total institutions” – the prison and the asylum – aimed at securing the transition from life to death of those who no longer “fit” into society. The movie adaptation, while thoroughly faithful to the main narrative set in 1932, reduces almost to nothing this framing device, depriving the story of at least some of its most enthralling complexities.

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Rope Stretchin’ Blues - p.52

Alessandro Portelli

Popular music – blues, country, blue-collar rock – speaks directly to the social groups that are most likely to be the target of the death penalty. Focusing especially on the work of Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, and Bruce Springsteen, the essay traces the ways in which popular music identifies with the point of view and the state of mind of the condemned man. While it seldom questions the death penalty on the abstract plane, popular music reveals its absurdity by tracing in ironic detail all the steps that lead to the cold-blooded and efficient killing of a human being. Whether the victims are innocent or guilty is almost secondary. Many songs reject the rhetoric of repentance and describe the crime as the core of the narrator’s identity; others describe the crime as a moment of absurdity in the character’s life, parallel to the absurdity of the final execution. The execution as spectacle is another theme, and the spectators are charged with the same responsibility as the executioner. At times, however, songs express the nostalgic longing for lost family, childhood, and innocence, in sentimental or religious terms.

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Un sistema arbitrario, inaffidabile e immorale: la sospensione della pena di morte in Illinois - p.69

George Ryan
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Testo a fronte

Quattro poesie di Jimmy Santiago Baca - p.73

Katherine R. Lynes
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Introduzione a Jonathan Lethem - p.80

Luca Briasco
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A colloquio con Jonathan Lethem - p.82

Umberto Rossi
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Città d’America

West Philly: la gentrification del ghetto - p.88

Marco Sioli
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Il momento magico dei repubblicani - p.101

Fabrizio Tonello

Why did the Democrats lose the November 2002 elections? Fabrizio Tonello argues that these midterm elections were dominated by the shadow of September 11, but that longterm mechanisms favoring the Republicans are at work, too. The overrepresentation of the West and the South in the electoral college creates a built-in bias towards conservative candidates. The author takes a historical approach to look into the recent elections of the House, the Senate, and into the next race for President in 2004.

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11 settembre un anno dopo. Quali immagini restano - p.112

Alessandra Mauro

September 11 seen through the images taken by people who were there: both the professional and the amateur photographers who documented the tragedy. The author specifically deals with three recent and relevant events connected to that date: a festival of photography called Visa pour l’Image that took place in Perpignan, in the South of France; a first-hand testimony by the famous photographer, James Nachtwey; and finally, Aleida Assmann’s latest book, Ricordare. Alessandra Mauro focuses on the ability to tell a story through images, and accurately assesses the dynamics of photo-reporting.

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11 settembre, e poi: dal salotto di casa Simpson - p.123

Manuela Marziali

How would Homer Simpson react to 9/11 (after Lisa explains to him that what he saw on TV was not a movie)? We can envision him, drinking his beer and imbibing TV’s messages, as he joins the majority kneejerk reaction of patriotism and revenge, a common man who succumbs to the violence of majority opinion. Meanwhile Lisa is demonstrating for peace in Washington Square or marching in Assisi, and sowing doubt in Homer’s mind. Bart is dreaming of being a marine, losing the rebellious attitudes that make him different. Marge is weeping as she washes the dishes, unbelieving and yet aware of the wound that cannot be healed. She forgets Maggie at the supermarket, as she watches gas mask prices soar and wonders what the future can be for a baby. In America, and in Afghanistan.  

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L’America e il mondo: le Torri Gemelle come metafora - p.125

Immanuel Wallerstein
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