The Law: The Death Killers

On June 29, 1972, when the five non-Nixon nominees on the Burger Court ruled that the death penalty in the U.S. was cruel and unusual punishment, virtually every legal handicapper was stunned. But during the previous nine years, a small and exceptionally talented group of lawyers had worked quietly toward just such a result with painstaking premeditation. Cruel and Unusual, written by one of the lawyers, Michael Meltsner, and published this week by Random House ($8.95), tells how they did it. The details of the battle make for a sometimes rousing intellectual adventure story.

The idea for the legal full-court press developed...

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