"Years After Historic Ruling, Execution Still A 'Random' Justice," is a segment from NPR's Fresh Air featuring an interview with the author of A Wild Justice, conducted by Dave Davies. Audio is at the link. The 37 minute interview is a must-listen. A transcript is also available.
Here's the opening:
Evan Mandery, welcome to FRESH AIR. You know, you write in this book that the Supreme Court had addressed the death penalty only six times in its first 175 years. And then Justice Arthur Goldberg and a young clerk named Alan Dershowitz decided to do something about this. I guess this was in the '60s. Tell us how they proceeded.
EVAN MANDERY: Well, in 1963, when my book opens, there's basically nobody in the United States other than Goldberg and Dershowitz who thinks that the death penalty might be unconstitutional. This is unfathomable to us today, right. Regardless of whether you support the death penalty or not, you understand that that issue is debatable.
But in '63, no one had this position, and Goldberg proposed to take a case, to grant certiorari in a case and raise the constitutionality of the death penalty, even though it hadn't been raised by the litigants. It was an act without precedent in American judicial history.
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.