Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Human Rights Magazine, the ABA's Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, devotes the entire Spring Issue to the Death Penalty. The Issue's Human Rights Hero is NYU Law CrimProf Anthony G. Amsterdam for his preeminent work over the last four decades, both in leading and shaping litigation efforts and in calling attention to the fundamental lack of due process in this country’s implementation of capital punishment.
Amsterdam is the lawyer most responsible for the litigation strategy that resulted in the United States being free from executions from 1967 to 1977. The high point of these efforts was his victory in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), the Supreme Court case that had the effect of overturning all existing death sentences in this country in 1972.
After the Court upheld in 1976 some new death penalty statutes enacted in Furman’s wake, most notably in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976), Amsterdam—who had argued Furman,Gregg, and many other capital cases—remained extremely active behind the scenes. In the ensuing three decades, he has helped formulate litigation strategies and has guided lawyers appearing in death penalty cases before the Supreme Court and other courts around the country to shape their briefs and oral arguments.
Just a few of
the huge number of outstanding lawyers with whom he has worked are
Sandra Babcock, John Blume, Jack Boger, Michele Brace, Stephen Bright,
Richard Burr, James Ellis, Deborah Fins, Ruth Friedman, Henderson Hill,
George Kendall, James Marcus, James Liebman, Michael Laurence, Mark
Olive, Rob Owen, Bryan Stevenson, Christina Swarns, and Denise Young.
Amsterdam’s mentees have forced the Supreme Court to focus on such
crucial issues as pervasive ineffective assistance of counsel, systemic
racial disparities in capital cases, and the imposition of the death
penalty on juveniles and on people with mental retardation or severe
mental illness. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]