Bessler attended Mankato Loyola High School and received his B.A. from the University of Minnesota, J.D. from Indiana University School of Law, M.F.A. from Hamline University and his M.St. from Oxford University.
Bessler previously taught at the University of Minnesota Law School and The George Washington University Law School, where he specialized in death penalty issues. He is a leading authority on capital punishment, having written five books and various book chapters and articles on the subject. Two of Bessler's books, Death in the Dark: Midnight Executions in America and Legacy of Violence: Lynch Mobs and Executions in Minnesota, were Minnesota Book Award finalists. He also authored Writing for Life: The Craft of Writing for Everyday Life. His most recent book is The Birth of American Law: An Italian Philosopher and the American Revolution (Carolina Academic Press, 2014).
In addition, Bessler clerked for U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Mason of the District of Minnesota, practiced law as a partner at Kelly & Berens, P.A., studied international human rights law at Oxford University and wrote articles for the Indiana Law Journal and the Arkansas Law Review.
- Gale Reference Team (December 16, 2007). Biography - Bessler, John D. Thomson Gale.