Race, Rape, and Injustice: Documenting and Challenging Death Penalty Cases in the Civil Rights Era
University of Tennessee Press, November 2012
Posted: 27 Sep 2012 Last revised: 17 Oct 2012
Date Written: October 17, 2012
This book by the late Barret J. Foerster and edited by Michael Meltsner tells the dramatic story of how twenty-eight law students — one of whom was the author — went south at the height of the civil rights era and helped change death penalty jurisprudence forever. The 1965 project was organized by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which sought to determine statistically whether capital punishment in southern rape cases had been applied discriminatorily over the previous twenty years. If the research showed that a disproportionate number of African Americans convicted of raping white women had received the death penalty regardless of nonracial variables (such as the degree of violence used), then capital punishment in the South could be barred because of its discriminatory application and the consequent violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
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