The Law: Arguing About Death for Rape

As the nine black-robed Justices walked purposefully to their places at the U.S. Supreme Court bench last week, the ornate courtroom seemed even more somber than usual. Nine months before, the court had allowed the imposition of the death penalty for murder. Now it was being asked to permit capital punishment for crimes in which no life has been taken. The state of Georgia was seeking permission to electrocute Ehrlich Anthony Coker for the rape of a 16-year-old housewife.

Coker's attorney, Civil Rights Lawyer David E. Kendall, candidly recited the ugly details of the...

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