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By Elizabeth Kelley, William R. Montross Jr.
Book Review columns.
Back from the Dead: One Woman’s Search for the Men Who Walked Off America’s Death Row
By Joan M. Cheever
John Wiley & Sons (2006)
Reviewed by Elizabeth Kelley
Every so often, when we finish reading a book, we realize that we have
just experienced something truly remarkable and historic. This is how I
felt after finishing Back from the Dead: One Woman’s Search for the Men
Who Walked Off America’s Death Row by Joan M. Cheever. This is the story
of the 587 men and 2 women whose death sentences were commuted when the
U.S. Supreme Court issued its 1972 ruling in the landmark case of
Furman v. Georgia. (Throughout the book, Cheever refers to these
individuals as the Class of ‘72, an ironic conferring of fraternity.) In
a 5-4 decision — with nine separate opinions and a total of 243 pages —
the Court held that the imposition of the death penalty constituted
cruel and unusual punishment. Subsequently, states scrambled to fashion
death statutes which passed constitutiona
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