A new book, Race, Rape, and Injustice: Documenting and Challenging Death Penalty Cases in the Civil Rights Era, recounts the fascinating story of twenty-eight law students who traveled throughout the South in the 1960s to gather data about the use of capital punishment in rape cases. They found the death penalty was used almost exclusively against black defendants accused of raping white women. The book was largely written by Barrett Foerster, one of the students, and then completed after his death by Michael Meltsner, an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund at the time of the study. The results of the investigation were used in arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court and played a role in Furman v. Georgia, the landmark case that held the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972. In the concluding chapter, Foerster wrote, "Racism does not disappear just because laws and legal procedures are changed. Capital punishment, though less popular, less widespread, and less cited as a cure for crime, is still with us. And with the exoneration of many innocent prisoners, its flaws are now even more obvious than before."
(B. Foerster, "Race, Rape, and Injustice: Documenting and Challenging Death Penalty Cases in the Civil Rights Era," (edit. by M. Meltsner) University of Tennessee Press, 2012; DPIC posted Nov. 19, 2012). See Race and Books about the death penalty.