Saturday, April 02, 2011

A Death Penalty Duo

 I don't know, I suppose death penalty stories are always unsettling but here is a matched set sufficient to remind anyone of just how refractory this issue can be.

One, California's hanging judge: ten death sentences and no apologies--and nine of ten still alive (the other died a natural death).  He says forget it, flic it in, put it behind you, much as I approve of it, the death penalty does not work.

And two, what Dahlia Lithwick calls "one of the meanest Supreme Court decisions ever"--Clarence Thomas declaring that being DA of New Orleans means never having to say you're sorry.  More precisely--after corrupting his trial, keeping him in prison for 18 years (14 in solitary) and scheduling him for execution seven times, the state, its tawdry charade finally exposed, has to do nothing more than unlock the cell door: the life he lost is his problem.

I guess what gets me in both cases is the untroubled statism of it all.   You have to admire the hanging judge for his clarity of vision-with 10 men's lives on his thread, he obviously has not the slightest of doubts or second thoughts, except as to the efficacy of the penalty.   You have to wonder what he'd think about the pervasive corruption of the New Orleans DA's office that so indifferently sent an innocent man off to be executed--or of the callous indifference of a Supreme Court majority so eager to believe in the legitimacy of the process that, when entreated to rectify an injustice, respond that they'd just rather not be bothered.   

Afterthought:  Somehow I just now caught up with the story about how Justice Scalia last week accrued a traffic ticket.  For his sake I can only hope that no village Dogberry slips up and gives him the death penalty,.

1 comment:

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

fwiw, the Supreme Court just granted cert on a body-cavity search case. The plaintiff was arrested for failing to pay a traffic fine, which in fact he had paid. He wound up in jail for a week, with two body-cavity searches. He won in the trial court (Jersey), and lost in the Third Circuit. Apparently, there is a conflict among the circuits.

This is going to be another 5-4, with Kennedy in the majority.