Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Broken System?

So Justice Stevens, in a move tantamount to Jesse Jackson announcing that he thinks African-Americans are cool, reiterated in a speech before a gathering of the American Bar Association that he had serious reservations about the death penalty. This will be a non-topic topic for the next day or two, I'm sure, at least until the shuttle lands safely tomorrow (here's hoping), and others have written more eloquently, and argued more forcefully, than I have or may under present circumstances.

That said, the article raises an interesting point -- the effect Judge Roberts could have on the Supreme Court's precarious death penalty jurisprudence. From the bits and pieces CNN has cobbled together, I find myself wondering whether Roberts, as a Catholic who just maybe listens to all of the Pope's pronouncements (unlike Nino kill-some-of them-let-God-sort-them-out, Scalia), might in fact provide the critical fifth anti-death penalty.

Oh and then there's this gem. Of the dozens of death row inmates exonerated of culpability for their underlying convictions in the past few years, Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which CNN identifies as a pro-death penalty group, had this to say: "I wouldn't say that 20 or 30 cases out of 8,000 constitutes a broken system."

To which I reply: You f*&king scumbag. You'd be singing a different tune if you or one of your kids or rich, think-tank friends was one of the 20 or 30! As the Supreme Court has continued to hold, death is different. If our system locks up for a while a few innocent people, that's just a product of the sheer numbers involved. Which is why the flaws in the death penalty are so much more stark; once your child, your husband, your mother has been strapped in the chair, no amount of investigative work uncovering the fluke of a false conviction can bring him or her back.

I'd say the several dozen cases that have emerged just in the past few years -- to which we really ought to add the hundreds if not thousands of non-capital convictions overturned by modern forensic techniques in the same period, which demonstrate equally well the likelihood of wrongful convictions over a much larger sample -- absolutely reflect a capital system too broken to continue to defend as a meaningful penal tool.


Blogger brian said...

It will be interesting to see what side of the death penalty debate Roberts does land on. Unlike abortion, the death penalty is generally frowned upon by the RC church, but, unlike abortion, the Vactican has never released a statement declaring the practice to be against the the theology of the church. Of course, there's been a lot of chatter about the abortion issue, as some folks claim that a religious test for Roberts should be allowed, since, according to his church, he could be ex-communicated for not overturning legalised abortion.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are there really already 4 votes on the Court that are firmly opposed to the death penalty?

1:49 PM  

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