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Every year thousands of cases are appealed to the Supreme Court and though only a tiny fraction her ever actually heard each has a fascinating back story.
A new book titled murder at the Supreme Court lethal crimes and landmark cases takes a look at historic death penalty cases the justices have wrestled with over the court's history.
I sat down earlier with co authors Martin Clancy and Tim O'Brien to ask them how they came up with the idea for the book in the first place.
We decided about twenty years ago we wanted to write.
A book about Supreme Court cases we didn't know what kind of book it took us awhile figured out but it follow the same format -- you're talking about we would look at these cases that raise.
Very important legal issues.
There's this story behind this that is truly amazing.
And my editors would always say well you have time to the legal -- that's what we said throughout there's.
I need time for true stories maybe get another five seconds you know.
-- was -- all of television you know but but the stories behind these decisions what happened before the crime.
After the crime after the supreme court's decision.
And so many cases as well anyway.
-- and these -- the death penalty cases and the court has -- this many many times I mean there -- issues of age a mental capacity.
The what did you find most fascinating sort of.
Weeding through the case.
Going backwards which is what we did we -- not take -- from the crime scene right to the resolution of the case.
For example in 1946 -- was a case involving -- defendant named Francis in Louisiana.
He was electrocuted but it didn't work.
They kept -- and I like act.
There it was into the air traveling electric chair went from county -- he would bring to the courthouse steps and news at -- bring this school kids in to look at -- so they would murder people.
And then it would take care inside the courthouse and they would excuse the -- -- they threw the switch and Willy Francis and as a witness said the excuse me to say good -- Willie.
-- William -- go anywhere there were sparks there was smokes so that went well it was seventeen -- That went to the Supreme Court.
On the issue is cruel and unusual punishment WA operative yeah to electricity guys' -- the court resolved it.
And against him they they said it was accidental.
Put justice frankfurter who voted for the execution because he felt we had no choice constitutionally.
Sort of behind the scenes to a friend in Louisiana Louisiana bar glanced out the execution he thought it would be a travesty.
It didn't work -- -- ultimately -- It also brings up a point.
But the justices sometimes vote to uphold death sentences.
Even though they personally are opposed to capital punishment that's their job I think a lot of people don't understand that perhaps Supreme Court justices.
Maybe more than anybody else in public life have to hold their nose when they do their work.
Because they may not like the result but they're bound to follow the law and they try to do that.
Where do you think or did you get a sense from all that you've covered up to this point where the -- -- next on issues that.
Well there sharply divided and some of -- reserve earlier on the -- showed they were divided way -- went way back in the sixties there were divided there's still divided today.
But there's no real momentum.
In the United States Supreme Court to do away with capital punishment.
We are -- momentum in the states we have.
Homicides a year but we only funds about forty death sentences what does that does that mean or or -- forty executions.
I think the states are taking another look at it.
And if enough states do away with -- -- -- -- Maryland -- away with the there's a Supreme Court might weigh in and say nothing is -- useful for say.
But that we went incapable of implementing it and rational way -- -- for Moscow that it could happen but not today not tomorrow -- quite a ways down the road.
And we -- we have seen limits -- they were talking about ages or methodology methodologies that are used admitted there have been some limits.
Anything that surprised you they didn't have a restart this -- I think it was the human factor I've always seen Supreme Court justices as most laypeople have sitting up on the bench roles.
And you sort of got the sense.
Jeff Toobin once wrote that these words these people were thoughts.
All they are human beings as we -- -- -- copy of the way we do and they agonize over.
We thought maybe it would but that only illustrates how difficult question is and I think it helps you understand the question of something away with issues like this.
That's the role of journalists not to have the answer to make sure people understand question.
And they'll get a lot of good stories along with that all the best with the -- gentlemen thank you thank you very thank you.
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