Meltsner’s Cruel and Unusual: Inside Story of the NAACP Inc. Fund Lawyers Who Fought to Abolish the Death Penalty

Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment is Michael Meltsner’s inside account, accessible to a wide audience and reading like a novel, of a small band of Fund lawyers and their nine-year struggle to end the death penalty in the United States.  Its new edition features a 2011 Foreword by death-penalty author Evan Mandery of CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, as well as a new Preface by the author. In new, high-quality paperback, plus nine ebook formats linked below.

The mission, plotted out over deli sandwiches in New York’s Central Park in the early 1960s, seemed as impossible then as going to the moon: abolish capital punishment in every state. The approach would fight a war on multiple fronts, using multiple strategies. The people would be dedicated, bright, unsure, unpopular, and fascinating. This is their story: not only the cases and the arguments before courts, the death row inmates and their victims, the judges and politicians urging law and order, this is the true account of the real-life lawyers from the inside. The United States indeed went to the moon, and a few years later the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. The victory was long-sought and sweet, and the pages of this book vividly let the reader live the struggle and the victory. And while the abolition eventually became as impermanent as the nation’s presence on the moon, these dedicated attorneys certainly made a difference.

As Evan Mandery writes in his new Foreword, “In these pages, Meltsner lays bare every aspect of his and his colleagues’ thinking. You will read how they handicapped their chances, which arguments they thought would work (you may be surprised), and what they thought of the Supreme Court justices who would decide the crucial cases. You will come to understand what they perceived to be the basis for support for the death penalty, and, with Meltsner’s unflinching honesty, what they perceived to be the inconsistencies in their position.”

Mandery concludes: “It is my odd lot in life to have read almost every major book ever written about the death penalty in America. This is the best and the most important. Every serious scholar who wants to advance an argument about capital punishment in the United States – whether it is abolitionist or in favor of the death penalty, or merely a tactical assessment – cites this book. It is open and supremely accessible.” And the author’s “constitutional vision was years ahead of its time. His book is timeless.”

Part of the Legal History & Biography Series from Quid Pro Books, the new ebook editions feature embedded pagination from previous editions (allowing continuity in all formats), active TOC and endnotes, and quality digital formatting. The new paperback embeds reference page numbers too, and includes the new introductory material.

Available in all leading digital formats and in paperback:

Amazon for Kindle. [Also at Amazon UK store.]

Barnes & Noble for Nook.

Smashwords, in eight different digital, ePUB, and PDF formats.

At Google Play, and more generally at Google Books.

Look for it directly at Apple iBooks and iTunes bookstores, at Kobobooks, and at Diesel ePub Books.

High-quality paperback edition: available from our eStore (fulfilled by Amazon), the general site, Barnes & Noble, and many other online and international booksellers.

Michael Meltsner is a senior professor of law at Northeastern University and the law school’s former dean. He has taught at Columbia and Harvard law schools, and was the second white attorney on the staff on the NAACP’s Fund litigation team. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and Yale Law School.

The author of the new Foreword, Evan Mandery, teaches criminal justice at John Jay College, CUNY, and is the author of Capital Punishment.

Cruel and Unusual:

ISBN 1610270967 (Kindle, 2011)
ISBN 9781610270977 (ePUB, 2011)
ISBN 1610270983 and 9781610270984 (pbk., 2011)
List price: $20.99 (pbk.); $8.99 (ebooks)

Page count: 276 pp.
Previous edition published by Random House.