[Deathpenalty]death penalty news --- USA, TEX.
j_sommer at gmx.net
Thu Mar 3 11:03:02 CST 2005
death penalty news
March 3, 2005
A Step to End Death Penalty
What a difference 16 years can make in the way the Supreme Court rules on
whether juveniles should be put to death for committing a capital crime.
In 1989, the high court upheld the death penalty for juvenile offenders as
constitutional. This week, in Roper v. Simmons, it overturned that decision
by voting 5-to-4 that executing criminals under 18 violates the
Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
This ruling, like the court's 2002 decision ending the death penalty for
persons with mental retardation, stands as an affirmation of this nation's
humanity - one that clearly recognizes children as different from adults
and who therefore must be treated differently.
The majority opinion, delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy, supports the
sound notion that American society has sufficiently evolved since the
court's early decisions to a new interpretation of the Constitution. Said
Justice Kennedy: "The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line
for many purposes between childhood and adulthood." Indeed, young people
aren't allowed to vote or serve in the military until 18.
Still, Justice Antonin Scalia provides a useful warning in his dissent that
"It is entirely consistent to believe that young people ... lack judgment,
but, at the same time, to believe that those who commit premeditated murder
are ... just as culpable as adults," - a point that suggests society needs
to keep considering just when and how to hold juveniles accountable.
Dissenting justices also argue that because 20 states still authorize the
death penalty for juveniles, no consensus actually exists.
But Kennedy is right when he notes that most states (and now nearly the
entire international community) don't allow the death penalty for
juveniles. And the trend has been for American states to abolish it - five
more since 1989.
This decision reflects a hope that children, no matter how heinous their
crime might be, don't always have the moral capacity to understand the
consequences of their actions, but do have the capacity to learn from their
mistakes. The five majority justices based their reasoning as much on that
progress in thought as on their collective reevaluation of past rulings.
The high court's decision also helps chip away at a lingering desire for
the death penalty in the US. When elected officials and courts can agree
that the death penalty remains a barbaric eye-for-an-eye solution that puts
society on par with the murderer, even more progress will have been made.
Upholding the sanctity of life is necessary in order to perpetuate it.
(source: Commentary, Christian Schience monitor)
Anti-death-penalty Chron celebrates decision
The anti-death-penalty Chronicle must have been an ecstatic place
yesterday, judging from today's output from the newspaper's staff columnists.
Rick Casey dialed up an anti-death-penalty activist (sadly, not editor Jeff
Cohen's wife) so his column could celebrate the decision without Casey
actually having to write much himself:
Dow says support for the death penalty itself is a mile wide and a
"That's hard to see in Harris County, but even in Texas many district
attorneys now seek the death penalty much less often than they could," he said.
And two years ago, a poll of Texans found that 41 percent thought
executions should be halted while a number of issues were studied.
Sixty-nine percent said they believed innocent people had been executed.
Still, 76 percent said they supported the death penalty.
Dow says, however, that the expressions of concern show a dwindling depth
of conviction for the death penalty. If that's true in Texas, it's more
true in other states.
The likely scenario, says Dow, is that most of the other states will quit
executing criminals. Then the Supreme Court will stop Texas from doing it.
Just a few weeks ago, Casey was lecturing conservatives for (he contended)
not being in favor of local control, intimating they were behind John
Whitmire's opposition to SAFEclear. Now, he's using David Dow's voice to
urge the Supreme Court to dictate how Texas will punish criminals with
seemingly no memory of his earlier complaint about local control. That's
what sophists do in pursuit of bigger goals. And at the Chron, taking on
the death penalty is certainly a big goal.
Then there's Cragg Hines:
Little by little, since it reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the
Supreme Court has whittled back the administration and application of
To the Scalias of the world, the idea of "evolving" standards or, even
worse to them, an "evolving" interpretation of the Constitution, is some
sort of perversion (unless, of course, it gets them to their political ends).
But as Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in a concurring opinion joined by
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, if the meaning of the Eighth Amendment "had
been frozen when it was originally drafted, it would impose no impediment
on the execution of 7-year-old children."
I'd hesitate to see that proposition brought to a vote in the Texas
Legislature as currently constituted.
We know, Cragg. That makes you and Rick Casey. When you can't achieve your
political ends via the democratic process, five justices will do. And your
political ends haven't been much in favor in Texas for some time.
And then there's the Chron editorial board:
The court majority also drew on the fact that since only 19 states allow
the execution of juveniles, the practice is in the minority and imposition
of such sentences constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment." Likewise,
most nations find the state-sanctioned killing of defendants for crimes
committed as juveniles beyond the bounds of civilized behavior. Justice
Kennedy acknowledged "the overwhelming weight of international opinion
against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the
understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people
may often be a factor in the crime."
Who cares what Texans think, so long as five justices can turn to
international opinion, right?
As we frequently concede, the Chronicle is entitled to whatever editorial
position it would like, however out of tune with its readership. However,
the editors shouldn't expect critical readers to believe this assertion:
The truth is that The Chronicle's editorial policy is neither liberal nor
conservative, but based upon principles and pragmatism that transcend, or,
less grandly, avoid partisan ideology.
Casey, Hines, and the editorial board all weigh in celebrating an
anti-death-penalty decision, thereby transcending, or, less grandly,
avoiding partisan ideology. Sure guys, keep on telling yourselves that if
it makes you feel better. But don't expect us to concede it's "the truth."
(source: blogHOUSTON.net: http://www.bloghouston.net/item/814)
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