began studying capital punishment in the early 1970s and wrote some of the first articles about the new method of execution (lethal injection) for Pacific News Service, Mother Jones, Playboy, and the Criminal Law Bulletin. He has taught about capital punishment at several colleges and universities, served as an aide to Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, and worked on successful abolition campaigns in two states (New York and New Jersey).
He received international notice for his documentary exhibition and book, Condemned. He served as consultant on three death penalty-related programs for the History Channel and for the Hollywood movie, “Lonely Hearts,” directed by Todd Robinson and starring John Travolta and James Gandolfini; wrote liner notes for the Criterion Collection edition of “The Honeymoon Killers”; and participated in many other media projects about executions. Founder and director of the New York Death Penalty Documentation Project, he also served on the board of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty and the advisory committee of the (Upstate) New York Civil Liberties Union.
Over the years he began gathering material about the rise and fall of the American gas chamber. For this book, he visited dozens of archives, libraries, museums and prisons throughout the United States and Europe. While completing this study, in 2009 he co-directed with Egmont R. Koch of Germany a documentary film about the gas chamber for German and French television networks. The Last Gasp is the culmination of decades of research and reflection.