Capital Punishment in the United States: A Documentary History

By Bryan Vila ; Cynthia Morris | Go to book overview

Part IV
Capital Punishment in the Courts, 1960-1976

Although earlier eras discussed in this book were much longer and the detail of information available about them today is much coarser than with contemporary issues and information technology, it seems safe to say that the capital punishment debate became as heated and robust during the period between 1960 and 1976 as at any time in U.S. history. This renewed focus on the death penalty was fueled by a number of factors, which are discussed below.


SOCIAL UNREST

The 1960s opened with the execution of convicted kidnapper Caryl Chessman (see Document 43), whose eleven-year string of appeals and best-selling books written from death row brought the issue of. capital punishment to center stage ( Schwed 1983:68-69).

At the same time, intense social unrest appears to have increased people's receptiveness to anti-capital punishment arguments -- at least during the early to mid-1960s. For example, as Schwed ( 1983:95) pointed out, the civil rights movement and its focus on equality for black Americans "spurred recognition of the death penalty as one instrument of repression of blacks and minorities." Moreover, the protests against the Vietnam war and the draft that began in the mid-1960s may have contributed to the concurrent waning of support for capital punishment by heightening many people's "moral sensitivity to killing in general" and leading them to question the government's rationale for doing so, either in war or in the execution chamber ( Schwed 1983:94).

Along with these changes, which challenged long-established ways of doing things, traumatic events such as the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator

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Capital Punishment in the United States: A Documentary History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents xi
  • Series Foreword xix
  • Preface xxi
  • Introduction xxv
  • Note xxxv
  • Significant Dates in the History of Capital Punishment xxxvii
  • Part I - Early Views on Capital Punishment: Colonial Era to Independence 1
  • Note 12
  • Part II - The Abolition Movement Gains Ground, 1800-1917 31
  • Note 37
  • Note 52
  • Note 66
  • Part III - War and Economic Depression Overshadow Capital Punishment, 1918-1959 75
  • Note 90
  • Note 102
  • Part IV - Capital Punishment in the Courts, 1960-1976 109
  • Note 128
  • Note 141
  • Note 152
  • Note 157
  • Note 162
  • Part V - The Debate Begins Anew, 1977-1989 169
  • Note 178
  • Note 181
  • Note 186
  • Note 190
  • Note 192
  • Note 208
  • Note 231
  • Part VI - The Death Penalty in the 1990s: Contemporary Issues 247
  • Note 287
  • Note 289
  • Glossary 301
  • Appendix A - Federal and State Capital Offenses in the United States 303
  • Appendix B - U.S. Executions: Colonial Times to 1995 309
  • Appendix C - Selected U.S. Supreme Court Cases 311
  • Appendix D - Capital Punishment Interest Groups and Related Organizations 313
  • Select Bibliography 315
  • Index 327
  • About the Editors *
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