Thursday, 17 April 2008

Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection

The United States Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to capital punishment based on the argument that execution by lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment incompatible with the eighth amendment to the Constitution: Baze v. Rees, 16 April 2008, available at:
The vote was 7 to 2, with Justices Ginzburg and Souter in dissent. But the real gem in the judgment is the reasons of Justice Stevens, who says the time has come for judicial abolition of capital punishment: ‘Full recognition of the diminishing force of the principal rationales for retaining the death penalty should lead this Court and legislatures to reexamine the question recently posed by Professor Salinas, a former Texas prosecutor and judge: “Is it time to Kill the Death Penalty?” See Salinas, 34 Am. J. Crim. L. 39 (2006). The time for a dispassionate, impartial comparison of the enormous costs that death penalty litigation imposes on society with the benefits that it produces has surely arrived.’ Justices Scalia and Thomas sign an opinion that attacks Justice Stevens. Justice Scalia, who is scheduled to visit Galway in July and teach on the summer programme organised by the New England School of Law, writes: ‘I take no position on the desirability of the death penalty, except to say that its value is eminently debatable and the subject of deeply, indeed passionately, held views—which means, to me, that it is preeminently not a matter to be resolved here. And especially not when it is explicitly permitted by the Constitution.’ Justice Scalia is a devout Catholic, and perhaps a chat with the Pope which he is in the United States will help him reflect upon the debate.
Thanks to Harry Rhea.

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