"Stay of Execution," is the title of David Oshinsky's review in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. More on Evan Mandery's A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America, from the publisher - W.W. Norton - and from Amazon.
Here's the beginning:
Furman v. Georgia is among the oddest Supreme Court cases in American history. Decided in 1972, it struck down every death penalty statute in the nation as then practiced without outlawing the death penalty itself. The ruling, based on the constitutional protection against “cruel and unusual punishment,” stunned even the closest court watchers. The death penalty seemed impregnable. It was part of the bedrock of America’s legal system, steeped in the intent of the founders, the will of most state legislatures and the forceful — if occasional — rulings of the courts.
The 5-4 vote in Furman reflected a striking political split: all five members of the majority were holdovers from the Warren Court, known for its liberal decisions, while all four dissenters were recent appointees of Richard Nixon, who had won the White House with a carefully orchestrated law-and-order campaign. And notably, each justice wrote his own opinion in Furman, meaning there was no common thread to the case, no controlling rationale. The decision ran to several hundred pages, the longest handed down by the court at the time.
Explaining Furman and its implications can be tricky, but Evan Mandery, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has done both with remarkable ease. “A Wild Justice” covers a decade’s worth of litigation, beginning in the mid-1960s with a daring strategy by death penalty abolitionists to grab the Supreme Court’s attention and ending in the mid-1970s with an angry public backlash and a crushing legal defeat. Mandery knows how to tell a story, and he’s done some terrific research. His judgments are crisp and generally fair-minded, despite a clear sympathy for the abolitionist side.
Oshinsky is a Pulitzer Prize winning scholar and historian. He is the author of Capital Punishment on Trial: Furman v. Georgia and the Death Penalty in Modern America. Earlier coverage of Oshinsky's book begins at the link.
Earlierier coverage of Mandery's A Wild Justice begins at the link.