Death to the Penalty

During four years of living in the US, I mostly felt like I was on familiar ground. But very occasionally I would be reminded that I was in a country that was not my own. The one biggie was the death penalty. Growing up in Australia, I never heard a cogent case put in favour of the death penalty. In Boston, I had several smart friends (one of whom I married) who made a strong case for it.

But all that didn’t change my view that the death penalty is fundamentally wrong, and I’m delighted to see that as of today, 5/9ths of the US Supreme Court agrees that it’s unconstitutional to put people to death for what they did as kids.

The real joy of Roper v Simmons*, however, isn’t the majority opinion. It’s Justice Scalia’s dissent. Here’s some choice snippets:

Because I do not believe that the meaning of our Eighth Amendment, any more than the meaning of other provisions of our Constitution, should be determined by the subjective views of five Members of this Court and like-minded foreigners, I dissent.

In other words, all the Court has done today, to borrow from another context, is to look over the heads of the crowd and pick out its friends.

Justice Scalia is wrong, but the judgment is a corker nonetheless. Recommended reading for any current or aspiring jurisprudes.

* Full judgment here. Clift notes version here.

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2 Responses to Death to the Penalty

  1. Sinclair Davidson says:

    You were in the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts, they don’t execute there.

  2. Andrew says:

    Having read Justice Scalia’s judgement, I tend to agree with a lot he said. For instance, how can youth be used as a defence for a premeditated crime like murder? As Justice Scalia says, that is pure nonsense.

    Furthermore, Justice Scalia seems to bring to light (excuse the pun) the real problem surrounding the US Justice System – the way in which US law and the opinion of the people of the United States – is being undermined by the UN and a host of international rules – some of which, as Justice Scalia stated, would be inferior to US law.

    I think Justice Scalia made these points, in particular, on this case quite clearly – and directed them at those who are, excuse the pun, ever so quick to pass judgement on the US and its legal and national sovereignty on matters such as the death penalty.

    BTW, In case you’re wondering, I’m a proud Australian living in Australia!

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