A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America

Norton. Aug. 2013. 496p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393239584. $29.95. LAW
OrangeReviewStarMandery (criminal justice, John Jay Coll.; Capital Punishment in America: A Balanced Examination) has written a tour de force examination of how the U.S. Supreme Court from 1963 to 1977 ruled on death penalty issues. Filled with information from the justices' private papers as well as extensive interviews with their clerks and with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund counsel (especially Anthony Amsterdam), this book is revelatory. Unlike Bob Woodward's The Brethren and Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine, it shows how all the court's players (politicians, clerks, litigants) had a part in its capital punishment decisions. The book especially benefits from the author's interviews with the clerks, which show how they influenced the justices. The justices struggled to separate their private views on the death penalty from their official positions as members of the court. The author places the court's opinions in the context of the times, showing how the era's politics and the justices' personal lives affected their views.
VERDICT As much a sociological study as a discussion of the law, this volume is well written and illuminating. Recommended for all audiences.
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