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SFU Professors Pen Book on Capital Punishment

August 22, 2017 Tags: Arts and Humanities , Distinctions


Book CoverAbout the book

Does the possibility of being put to death deter crime? Do the methods of execution matter? This book examines the history of capital punishment in the United States; describing the significant issues, events, and cases; and addressing the controversies and legal issues surrounding capital punishment, making this important topic accessible to a wide range of readers.


The book presents both sides of the argument on whether capital punishment should continue or be abolished. What crimes deserve this sentence; whether juveniles or individuals with diminished mental capacity should ever be sentenced to death; potentially viable alternatives to the death penalty; and the hidden costs involved in our capital punishment system that make it so expensive.

Why did they write it?

They were initially invited to participate in ABC-CLIO’s “America’s Freedom” series several years ago. The series discussed a variety of topics including equal protection of the laws, freedom of association, freedom of speech, property rights, the right to bear arms, the right to counsel and protection against self-incrimination, the right to privacy, and cruel and unusual punishment. “I had an interest in the topic of cruel and unusual punishment and I discussed the project with my friend, U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Pesto and we decided to collaborate,” recalls Dr. Melusky. “We were not sure that we would be able to do so because our own views on capital punishment were rather different. Nevertheless, we decided to give it a try.” The collaboration was successful and produced four books to date: Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Rights and Liberties under the Law (ABC-CLIO, 2003), Capital Punishment (Greenwood, 2011), The Death Penalty: Documents Decoded (ABC-CLIO, 2014), and the newest book, The Death Penalty: A Reference Handbook (ABC-CLIO, 2017). The books are available online through, and

About the Authors

Joseph A. Melusky serves as Professor of Political Science, Director of the Center for the Study of Government and Law, Coordinator of Public Administration/Government Service, and Director of the Pre-Law program at Saint Francis University. He has been a full-time member of the teaching faculty at Saint Francis since 1980. He has received a number of teaching awards including the Swatsworth Award, the Honor Society Outstanding Faculty Award, the Alumni Association's Distinguished Faculty Award, and the Dr. John F. Coleman Award for Outstanding Teaching and Research. He has served as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, Chair of the Department of History and Political Science, Chair of the Education Department, and Dean of General Education. He is a former president and vice-president of the Pennsylvania Political Science Association (PPSA), former Executive Director, President, and Vice-President of the Northeastern Political Science Association (NPSA), and former member of the Executive Council of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC). He is Director of Employment Services of the NPSA. He has served as a Judge of Elections in Blair County, Pennsylvania, since 1997.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Pesto is an adjunct professor of political science at Saint Francis University. Born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 20, 1960. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in May, 1980 with a B.A. in economics and from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in May, 1983.


After private practice in Philadelphia in 1984, he clerked for Judge D. Brooks Smith, then of the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, in 1985 and 1986. He practiced privately again in 1986 and was a member of the District Attorney's Office in Blair County from 1986 through 1988. He again clerked for Judge D. Brooks Smith of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania from 1988 to 1994. He was appointed magistrate judge on March 1, 1994.