Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New life for the death penalty

The Supreme Court ruled this morning that Kentucky's lethal injection protocol does not violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Court's opinion is a mess; in fact, there is no majority opinion. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for a three-person plurality, which included only Justices Alito and Kennedy. Justices Scalia and Thomas each wrote separately to push their respective but tired ritualistic (and thoroughly discredited) opinions claiming to know what the true intent of the Framers was . . . as if either really knows what the Framers intended and if they did why it even matters.

Justice Breyer wrote separately, as did Justice Stevens, to emphasize that the broader question of the death penalty's constitutionality was not before them. Each reluctantly concurred with the majority's view that Ralph Baze and Thomas Bowling, the two Kentucky death row inmates who brought the case, had not demonstrated that the drug cocktail administered by Kentucky authorities reached the threshold of pain necessary to qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. Stevens, however, reached a dramatically different conclusion than Breyer, holding that the death penalty was unconstitutional. Had that question been put squarely before him, Stevens would have struck down Kentucky's law on Eighth Amendment grounds.

Justices Ginsburg and Souter dissented. I haven't had time to read the opinions thoroughly yet. I will by tomorrow and, of course, will have an opinion on the Court's opinion.

The Court, shortly after it announced the opinions in the Kentucky case, heard arguments on whether the Eighth Amendment ban on the death penalty for noncapital crimes includes child rape. You can read about that here.

1 comment:

Andrew Engel said...

I knew I could find clarity on such a crappy ruling at your blog.