Although much has been written about the U.S. Supreme Court’s modern death penalty jurisprudence, most of its pre-modern decisions have been relegated to the dustbin of history. This is unfortunate because the Court’s death penalty jurisprudence is supposed to follow the doctrine of stare decisis, under which courts are to be guided by earlier judicial decisions (precedents) when the same points are raised again in subsequent litigation. The Past as Prologue provides insight into the Court’s modern death penalty jurisprudence by examining in detail 39 pre-modern Supreme Court death penalty cases for which written opinions were issued. Not only will readers be fascinated by the case descriptions, they are also likely to be disturbed by what the case descriptions reveal about the more egregious practices of the pre-modern death penalty era. The book should appeal to anyone interested in American history in general and death penalty history in particular, death penalty jurisprudence, decision making of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Court’s commitment to stare decisis.
“I would recommend this book to first year law students in upper-level courses in Political Science or Criminal Justice, and to graduate students who plan on focusing either on capital punishment or Supreme Court jurisprudence in general. Bohm’s book is both straightforward and accessible. As the debate about capital punishment in America continues, the myriad of concepts, ranging from ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ to the ‘evolving standards of decency,’ all discussed by Bohm, will undoubtedly serve as the framework determining its future viability.” —
— Criminal Justice Review