The Courts, the Constitution, and Capital Punishment

By Hugo Adam Bedau | Go to book overview

6 Challenging the Death Penalty

To appreciate the story that Michael Meltsner tells in his absorbing study, Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment, we have to think back to the status of the death penalty in our society a dozen years ago. In the summer of 1962, some 270 persons in eighteen state jurisdictions were waiting out stays of execution, and each week an average of two more persons entered prison under sentence of death. Nationwide, executions by electrocution, hanging, or lethal gas occurred at the rate of about one a week. Roughly two persons per month would leave "death row" for the general prison regimen because they had been granted executive commutation of sentence, and in an equal number of cases, the appellate courts would intervene and order a new trial. Generally, the death penalty and its constitutionality seemed immune from attack. No statute or court procedure or mode of inflicting the death sentence had ever been declared unconstitutional. No class of offenders had ever been declared constitutionally exempt from the application of a death penalty statute. No death sentence had ever been voided as a violation of due process, equal protection, or on any other ground. About the only way to have the courts nullify a death sentence was to attack the conviction of a capital crime itself by a showing of reversible error. In other words, the courts had never provided anything but individually litigated, piecemeal relief.

There were no indications of anything more sweeping or revolutionary in the wind. Efforts to abolish the death penalty through statutory repeal languished. Out of a total of fifty-two civil jurisdictions in the United States competent to impose the death penalty, only five-Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin--had totally abolished capital punishment for all crimes. Delaware, the state in which the legislature had most recently abolished the death penalty for murder, had reintroduced it in December 1961, less than four years later. 1 In few states was there any realistic prospect for repeal of capital punishment statutes or for significant statutory alterations affecting persons under death sentence, such as provision for automatic review by state appellate courts, or abolishment of various disabilities attendant upon status as a death row prisoner. 2 Even discretionary sentencing in capital cases had yet to be adopted nationwide. As of March 1962, the law in the District of Columbia was changed to include this provision; in New York, however, death was still the mandatory penalty for first degree murder. In Congress, the first hearing in this century on the federal death penalty was held in 1960, 3 but it led to no further legislative action. The office of the attorney general indicated no discontent with

-81-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Courts, the Constitution, and Capital Punishment
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 172

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.