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Norman Redlich, dean of the New York University Law School, a member of the Warren Commission (which investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy), and a strong opponent of the death penalty, was born in the Bronx on this date in 1925. Early in his career, Redlich was active in the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, which defended communists and other outcasts from McCarthyism. When the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover learned of this background, he launched a smear campaign and sought to have Redlich removed from the Warren Commission, but Chief Justice Earl Warren balked and retained him. Redlich was chair of the American Jewish Congress national governing council and a member of the executive committee of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. At NYU, he built the school’s commitment to pro bono defense work for indigent death-row inmates (between 1960 and ’63, Redlich saved five men from the electric chair). Redlich also helped Jane Jacobs in her struggle to prevent Robert Moses from building the Lower Manhattan Expressway, a four-lane highway strongly opposed by downtown residents, in the late 1950s. The New York Bar Association gives a Norman Redlich Capital Defense Distinguished Service and Pro Bono Award in his honor.
“I can’t wait for New York to abolish capital punishment. When I’ve saved a man from the chair, at least I’ve abolished capital punishment for him.” —Norman Redlich