In 1987, the United States Supreme Court decided a case that could have ended the death penalty in the United States. Imprisoned by the Past: Warren McCleskey and the American Death Penalty examines the long history of the American death penalty and its connection to the case of Warren McCleskey, revealing how that case marked a turning point for the history of the death penalty. In this book, Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier explores one of the most important Supreme Court cases in history, a case that raised important questions about race and punishment, and ultimately changed the way we understand the death penalty today. McCleskey's case resulted in one of the most important Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history, where the Court confronted evidence of racial discrimination in the administration of capital punishment. The case currently marks the last time that the Supreme Court had a realistic chance of completely striking down capital punishment. As such, the case also marked a turning point in the death penalty debate in the country.
Going back nearly four centuries, this book connects McCleskey's life and crime to the issues that have haunted the American death penalty debate since the first executions by early settlers through the modern twenty-first century death penalty. Imprisoned by the Past ties together three unique American stories. First, the book considers the changing American death penalty across centuries where drastic changes have occurred in the last fifty years. Second, the book discusses the role that race played in that history. And third, the book tells the story of Warren McCleskey and how his life and legal case brought together the other two narratives.
Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier is a Professor of Law at City University of New York School of Law. He received his B.A. and J.D. degrees from Case Western Reserve University. Before joining the CUNY Law faculty, he was an Associate at Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C., and he taught at Tulane School of Law and Arizona State University College of Law. For several years, he was a staff attorney at the Arizona Capital Representation Project. Professor Kirchmeier is a member and former Chair of the Capital Punishment Committee of the New York City Bar Association, and has appeared before a New York Assembly joint committee regarding the reinstatement of the New York death penalty. He is the author of numerous law review articles on the subject of criminal procedure, constitutional law, and the death penalty.
Preface ; Introduction ; Part A - Prologue ; Prologue: America's Marietta ; Part B - A Killing in Georgia ; Chapter 1: A Death in Dixie ; Chapter 2: The Trial of Warren McCleskey ; Chapter 3: Offie Evans and McCleskey v. Zant ; Part C - American Death Penalty History And the Courts ; Chapter 4: The First Limits: The Early American Death Penalty through the 1850s ; Chapter 5: Wars and Death Penalty Abolition: The Civil War Through Early 1900s ; Chapter 6: A Time of Change: American Society and the Death Penalty 1950s through the 1960s ; Chapter 7: Into the Courthouse: The 1970s Abolition Strategy ; Chapter 8: A New Era: A New U.S. Death Penalty Returns in the Late 1970s ; Chapter 9: Starting Over: Executions Resume in the 1970s and 1980s ; Part D - Lynching, Race, and McCleskey v. Kemp ; Chapter 10: Lynching and Race in America ; Chapter 11: Race and the Courts ; Chapter 12: Warren McCleskey and the Baldus Study ; Chapter 13: The Supreme Court and McCleskey v Kemp ; Part E - Execution ; Chapter 14: Mitigation and Reform ; Chapter 15: Warren McCleskey & the Electric Chair ; Chapter 16: Other American Execution Methods ; Part F - The Capital Punishment Debate Moves Outside the Courts after McCleskey ; Chapter 17: The Unstoppable Death Penalty After McCleskey into the early 1990s ; Chapter 18: New Abolitionist Voices in the 1990s ; Chapter 19: Innocence and the American Death Penalty ; Chapter 20: A Moratorium Movement Emerges in the 1990s ; Part G - McCleskey's Legacy in the Early Twenty-First Century ; Chapter 21: The Early Twenty-First Century Death Penalty in the Courts ; Chapter 22: The Early Twenty-First Century Death Penalty in U.S. Politics ; Chapter 23: Escaping from Imprisonment of the Past ; Part H - Epilogue ; Epilogue: Warren McCleskey's Case and the American Death Penalty Today