Why Shoot the Mules?

As a child growing up in England in the 1950s I can still remember the chill and frisson of fascinated fear we all felt on the occasions a death sentence was carried out. An overriding aura of a shameful and squalid act being committed pervaded the nation. All the usual suspects, the protests and vigils by abolitionists, the truculent affirmations from saloon-bar conservatives and above it all the solemn sententious pronouncements from judges and political leaders, lending a grisly numinosity to the proceedings. It was rather as if the sun had broken through the clouds when in 1965 Britain abolished the death penalty.

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