Death Penalty Argued Before the Supreme Court
Lawyer Anthony Amsterdam made a specialty of arguing death penalty cases before the Supreme Court, culminating in the 1972 case Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238. Amsterdam had worked through the NAACP's Legal and Educational Defense Fund, building up a case that death penalty sentences, while rarely carried out, were handed down to disproportionate numbers of African Americans. Instead of focusing on the violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Amsterdam castigated the flawed procedure of jury selection and instruction. Here in one of his earlier cases, Maxwell v. Bishop, 398 U.S. 262 (1970), Amsterdam demonstrated one of the problems with jury selection. In this case the court found a death sentence cannot be carried out if the jury automatically excluded jurors who voiced general objections to the death penalty.