Good decision, terrible process to get to it

Look who the latest person is to realize capital punishment is pointless:

The nation’s longest-serving Supreme Court justice, John Paul Stevens, on Wednesday declared his formal opposition to capital punishment.

Stevens, 87, was part of the court majority that reinstated the death penalty in America in 1976. But in a concurring opinion to Wednesday’s ruling that Kentucky’s use of lethal injection is constitutional, Stevens wrote that the death penalty no longer served a legitimate social function. He is the first justice to openly oppose capital punishment since Harry Blackmun in 1994.

His words came as some comfort to death penalty opponents on a day when they suffered a setback at the hands of the justices. Within hours of the 7-2 ruling, Virginia and Florida announced their intention to lift a moratorium on executions, and several other states were expected to follow suit. In California, executions could begin again by the end of the year.

But Elisabeth Semel, a law professor and director of the Death Penalty Clinic at UC Berkeley who helped bring the challenge to Kentucky’s lethal-injection procedures, said the court’s opinion made it clear that states can be forced to institute alternative lethal-injection procedures if they can be proven to alleviate a substantial risk of severe pain to the inmate.

That may have been one reason that Stevens, in a sense, threw up his hands and said “enough” even as he concurred with the majority in the Kentucky case. Stevens wrote that when the court agreed to hear the Kentucky challenge, he “assumed that our decision would bring the debate about lethal injection as a method of execution to a close. It now seems clear that it will not.”

Then he went further, saying the death penalty was no longer meeting any of the societal aims the court laid out when it reinstated the sanction in 1976 after a four-year pause. “State-sanctioned killing,” he said, is becoming “more and more anachronistic.”

I personally thought the “does it cause pain?” question was a deflection — well damn, you’re killing them anyway! Safe to say you no longer care about that persons wellbeing!  — but at least he comes around. There’s no self-defense argument in executions, as the person has already been caught & removed from the population; it just amounts to a lame attempt at a violent salve to the collective psyche.

So, you’re probably thinking right now “ok…where’s the bad part?”. Well, consider Stevens’ position and the power he holds, especially the fact that matters of life, death and liberty itself come down to him & 8 other people and what political “tribe” they happen to align with, and ask yourself the following: how often do these kinds of decisions lean pro-liberty & pro-reason rather than against?

In the context of the true operation of the Supreme Court, Stevens figuring this out is lightning striking the same spot twice. Depending on the judgment of a few in the long run never works.


About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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