Friday, May 02, 2008

Return to Executions

…But U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stevens Changes His Mind.

Executions are set to resume in the U.S. this month, after the longest moratorium in 25 years. Already Georgia has set an execution date and a number of other southern states – such as Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia – are right behind.

In a way, this is simply a resumption of the status quo before the U.S. Supreme Court announced in September 2007 that it would review one state’s lethal injection protocol. The Court handed down its decision on April 16, thus clearing the way for new execution dates to be set.

However it is perhaps more important to note what the Court did not consider. The Court did not argue that the death penalty is a meritorious public policy. The Court did not declare that capital punishment is free of blunders, biases and bureaucracies – blunders because of the number of innocent people sentenced to death; biases because of the class and racial inequities that plague the system; and bureaucracies because of the cumbersome and time-consuming nature of death penalty appeals.

These things about the death penalty were true before the moratorium began. They are just as true now that the moratorium has ended.

Indeed, after more than 30 years of supporting executions, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens changed his mind. In his opinion in the Baze decision, Stevens indicated that if it were up to him, he would do away with the death penalty altogether. “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,” he wrote.

As executions resume in the U.S., it indeed is time for such a contemplation.

Text taken from the homepage of the NCADP

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