Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas

March 29, 2012
In 2003 the Supreme Court struck down America’s sodomy laws in the case of Lawrence v. Texas. In Flagrant Conduct, a work nine years in the making, Dale Carpenter challenges what we thought we knew about the case. Drawing on dozens of interviews, he analyzes the claims of virtually every person involved. Carpenter first introduces us to the interracial defendants themselves, who were hardly prepared “for the strike of lightning” that would upend their lives, and then to the Harris County arresting officers. He charts not only the careful legal strategy that Lambda Legal attorneys adopted to make the case compatible to a conservative Supreme Court but also the miscalculations of the Houston prosecutors who assumed that the nation’s extant sodomy laws would be upheld. Dale Carpenter clerked for Judge Edith H. Jones of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and blogs frequently for The Volokh Conspiracy. Charles Lane is the author of The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction.

Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago Law School says, “Dale Carpenter’s Flagrant Conduct does for Lawrence v. Texas what Richard Kluger’s Simple Justice and Anthony Lewis’s Gideon’s Trumpet did for Brown v. Board of Education and Gideon v. Wainwright. It tells the story of a profoundly dramatic and important Supreme Court decision in a way that brings to life the stakes, the participants, the justices, and the drama of the constitutional controversy. It is a landmark achievement.”

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