NEW YORK (Sep. 17)
The American Jewish Congress filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the United States Supreme Court yesterday arguing that it was unconstitutional to impose the death penalty in a case of rape without homicide. The brief, prepared by the AJ Congress’ special counsel, Leo Pfeffer, had the concurrence of the Synagogue Council of America, the representative body of the rabbinic and lay organizations of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jewry in America.
The case concerns William L. Maxwell, a Negro, who was sentenced to death for raping a white woman in Arkansas in 1962. His act did not involve murder. Mr. Maxwell has been in the state penitentiary since his conviction. The Supreme Court will hear the case Oct. 13. Last week, 10 major Protestant groups filed a similar brief urging the high court to separate the two parts of the jury process in a capital case–finding a man guilty and sentencing him to death. The AJ Congress’ brief, however, is the only one addressed to the constitutionality of invoking the death penalty in a case of rape where no homicide occurred.