Evan J. Mandery is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and a former capital defense attorney. He has written five previous books. In this gripping and intellectually adventuresome work, he covers a ten-year period from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s.

The crusade to abolish the death penalty was launched by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and led by Anthony Amsterdam who saw the case as a civil rights issue given the large number of African-Americans on death row. The two primary points the group made was that the death penalty was a flawed process and that standards of decency required a fresh approach.

Mandery does a fine job capturing and conveying the divisions in the U.S. Supreme Court and the firestorm that ensured in 1972 when their decision in Furman v. Georgia led to a moratorium on the death penalty. Those who were against capital punishment rejoiced and were exceedingly glad. But their high did not last for long as public support went against the Supreme Court decision. The homicide rate shot up and fear of violent crime increased. Hollywood fueled hatred of criminals with Death Wish and Dirty Harry, two vigilante-themed movies. The death penalty returned in 1977, and since then 1300 people have been executed with the support of a majority of Americans.