Most writing about the law tends to ignore the critical role of lawyers and instead focuses attention on the judges who grant or deny legal claims, the rules of law themselves, or the clients who are hurt or helped. When the literature deals with the practice of law, the advocate is often so romanticized--the earnest professional, always at the ready--or abused--hostile, egomaniacal, greedy--as to make him unrecognizable. Although lawyers can do little without grieving clients and willing judges, their role as workers deserves more attention.
In 1961 I began a long association with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., an organization whose staff has developed public interest advocacy to a fine art. During my nine-year tenure as a staff attorney, and after 1970 when I served as a consultant, Fund attorneys held the executioner at bay until the Supreme Court was ready and willing to abolish the death penalty. This book tells much about the operation of the Court and the law of capital punishment, but its primary purpose is to convey the craft and cunning of the lawyers who orchestrated a stunning legal victory; of the means they employed to right a deeply felt, historic wrong.
The reader is forewarned that I saw the events that are